Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children’s Home Society

Ballantine. Oct. 2019. 320p. illus. ISBN 9780593130148. $26. SOC SCI
Wingate’s best-selling novel Before We Were Yours drew a response from people nationwide who recognized their own life stories and family histories in the work and reached out to the author. Wingate organized a somewhat impromptu gathering in Memphis, where Georgia Tann ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, the child trafficking enterprise that flourished from the 1930s to the early 1950s fictionalized in the novel. Journalist Christie recounts how Tann preyed on poor, unwed, or uneducated people who often did not know that they were signing away their parental rights. Tann also fleeced people desperate to adopt, charging exorbitant fees to circumvent normal channels. Survivors and their families recount oral histories to Christie during the reunion, illuminating the lifelong effects of child trafficking and the survivors’ arduous searches to find birth certificates and adoption records. Coming together as a group helps many of these individuals and their families find a measure of peace.
VERDICT A touching example of the power of storytelling, this book will appeal to readers of Before We Were Yours and those interested in family histories and issues related to adoption.

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