I liked this book immensely, but it was emotionally draining on me. I’m glad to have read it, though, and I recommend it to you.
Before We Were Yours~ by Lisa Wingate
This is a riveting historical fiction book based on true events. The Tennessee Children’s Home Society, run by Georgia Tann, a wicked, greedy, heartless lesbian, who came from an upper class family. Her father was a judge. The book tells the stories of Rill and her siblings, who were basically kidnapped by the local crooked police, and taken to the orphanage to live until Miss Tann could sell them, and the story of Avery Stafford, a woman whose grandmother had some mysterious ties to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. The book goes back and forth between Rill’s life and Avery’s quest for answers.
Chapter 1 takes place in the present day in Aiken, South Carolina. This chapter is told from Avery Stafford’s perspective. Then, in other chapters, you read about Rill, and how she and her siblings were wrenched from their home on a shantyboat in the river, and placed at the mercy of the orphanage’s cruel director and employees. Both viewpoints were well written, and intensely interesting, although I wish Lisa Wingate had focused more on the orphan’s lives than on Avery the single unmarried female lawyer who had doubts about her fiancee.
The heart wrenching sexual abuse and physical neglect that occurred all the time in the children’s home society was sordid and reprehensible. How the children survived,the ones who did, was difficult for me to understand, but I’m glad many children did. I found out, from OTHER sources, not this book, that infants were left to die, starved to death, or worse. My heart was so sad and also I was infuriated that this happened, and STILL happens, as you can tell if you watch the news on tv. Not in orphanages in the USA, but in other situations.
The other thing that bothered me was the amount of corruption and lack of conscience in judges, police, and the employees of Ms. Tann. Georgia had many accomplices: Politicians, legislators, judges, attorneys, doctors, nurses, and social workers who scouted child victims. She operated for 26 years.
I admit I stayed up past midnight one night, to get as far along in the book as I could, it evoked so much interest and concern in me. (Obviously, by the fact that over 5 thousand others have written reviews about “Before We Were Yours”, I wasn’t the only one who got a lot out of this historical fiction book) The book has raised a lot of questions in me, and I’ve been finding out as much as I can concerning child trafficker Georgia Tann, and the plight of the babies and children who were taken from their families under false pretenses, threats, and downright breaking of the law.
This story makes me wonder about orphanages in general, but more about the outrageous disgraceful sin of child trafficking.
A woman, Denny Glad, used to help people in Tennessee and who had been at the facility run by Georgia Tann, find their birth parents. Sadly, she has died:
There’s quite a bit more information about this travesty, and if you’re interested, here are a few links to get you going on your own search.
The subject of Georgia Tann also appears in an episode of Investigation Discovery’s series Deadly Women titled “Above the Law” that aired September 13, 2013 and also appeared on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.
The subject of Georgia Tann is the focus of the nonfiction book, The Baby Thief: The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, The Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption, by Barbara Bisantz Raymond.