Monday, February 3, 2020

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours  by Lisa Wingate is a heartrendingly magnificent story, based upon true events. From [Spoiler Alert] Bookrags:
Before We Were Yours begins in Memphis in 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss lives on a shantyboat on the Mississippi River with her four younger siblings and her parents, Queenie and Briny. One night, Queenie, who is pregnant with twins, goes into labor, but she is having complications. Briny brings Queenie to the hospital and leaves Rill in charge. Shortly after, a group of policemen climb aboard the shantyboat and forcefully take Rill and her siblings. The children are brought to an orphanage run by three cruel women, Miss Tann, Mrs. Murphy, and Mrs. Pulnik. Soon, Rill learns that the name of the place is the Tennessee Children's Home Society (TCHS). At first, the children think that they will shortly be brought back to Briny and Queenie, but before long, they realize that they may never see their parents again.

At the TCHS, each of the children face abuse, neglect, and malnourishment. Her sister, Camellia, Rill's sister closest in age to her, is raped by one of the workers named Mr. Riggs. Shortly afterwards, she disappears, and Miss Tann tells Rill that she had never existed in the first place. Grieving the loss of her sister, Rill has no choice but to watch as each of her younger siblings are adopted by wealthy families and separated from her.

Rill and her sister, Fern, are adopted together by a wealthy composer and his wife. Mr. and Mrs. Sevier treat Rill and Fern well, and are grateful to have kids around the house after Mrs. Sevier lost several babies in childbirth. They call Rill and Fern "May" and "Beth," the names that Miss Tann gave them back at the TCHS. One day, Miss Tann comes back to the Seviers' house warning them that they could lose the children if they do not pay her more money. Rill decides to run away with Fern and travel on the river back to the Arcadia. When they finally arrive, Rill's friend Silas tells her that Queenie recently passed away, and Briny is now an alcoholic. A few days later, the Arcadia burns down and Briny is not found. Silas agrees to take back Rill and Fern to the Seviers, where they spend the rest of their childhood.

Meanwhile, in present day Aiken, South Carolina, Avery Stafford is a successful lawyer and the daughter of a senator. She has a handsome fiancé, Elliot, and lives a life of privilege. One day, when she visits the local nursing home with her father for a political event, a resident steals her bracelet. When the nursing staff later notify Avery and she returns to retrieve it, she meets with the elderly woman, whose name is May. Avery begins to visit May as she learns that she might have some connection to her Grandma Judy, who now has dementia.(Read more.)
From the New York Post:
Tann was a pied piper without scruple; she was the mastermind behind a black market for white babies (especially blond, blue-eyed ones) that terrorized poor Southern families for almost three decades. It’s estimated that over 5,000 children were stolen by Tann and the society between 1924 and 1950 and that some 500 died at the society’s hands as a result of poor care, disease and, it is suspected, abuse.

Particularly vulnerable were newborns. In 1945 alone, as many as 50 children perished in a dysentery outbreak. The precise figure, like so many terrible details about the society, is not known. Tann had various means of procuring babies and children for her wealthy customers. She bribed nurses and doctors in birthing wards, who would then tell new parents that their babies had been stillborn.

 Her organization was quick to snatch babies born in prisons and mental wards. Older children were grabbed off the street by Tann’s agents and were told their parents had died. To cover their tracks, the society falsified adoption records and destroyed any trace of these children’s origins.

Lisa Wingate brings these shocking crimes and their long-term emotional impact to light in her affecting new novel, “Before We Were Yours” (Ballantine Books), out now. The book tells the story of two families — the wealthy, connected Staffords and the dirt-poor “river gypsy” Fosses. Though her tale is fictional, it stems from the true, terrible events of the Tennessee tragedy. Tann and her associates would tear apart one family to benefit another, creating wounds not easily healed. The loss would linger, like a phantom limb, for generations.

Tann would tell adoptive parents that the children were “blank slates,” Wingate tells The Post. “What really resonated with me is that they’re not. Foster kids, adopted kids, they’re not blank slates. They’re people. And they have genetic tendencies and . . . talents and abilities that are all their own.”
(Read more.)

From Family Locket:
 With DNA testing turning up skeletons in the closet left and right, I was interested to read Before We Were Yours  by Lisa Wingate. This fictional account of a family describes the horrific Tennessee Children’s Home Society operated by Georgia Tann in Memphis, Tennessee, from the 1920s to 1950. (The above is an affiliate link).

Wingate created her story based on recollections of children who were kidnapped from their families and put into Tann’s “orphanage.” It is estimated that Tann stole over 5,000 children. Many of them were adopted out to wealthy families, mostly in New York or California. The adoptive parents were told lies, never dreaming the shady means that Tann used to get the children into her power.

Before We Were Yours is eye-opening and shocking – revealing the story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society through the eyes of fictional Rill Foss. The story follows Rill from the taking of herself and four siblings from their family’s riverboat to the orphanage where she lost her younger siblings to adoptions, then was adopted herself with a younger sister. (Read more.)

More HERE.


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