Before We Were Yours. Book Review


Before We Were Yours

By Lisa Wingate

Queenie and Briny ruled the Kingdom of Arcadia, a shanty boat on the Mississippi River in the 1930s. They, along with their children, Rill, Fern, Lark, Gabion and Camellia, called the Arcadia home. Briny built the Arcadia and the family lived a life of freedom and ease along the river. They would go south in the winter and north in the warmer months. But one day they were tied up on the river near Memphis when Queenie went into labor. The midwife feared that Queenie’s and the baby’s lives were in danger, so Briny took them across the river to the hospital in Memphis. The next morning, the police came and took Rill, Fern, Lark, Gabion, and Camellia out of Arcadia and placed them in the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and from there their lives would never be the same.

This work of historic fiction focused on the lives of the Foss children and their unfortunate run-in with Georgia Tann, the proprietor of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society – a network of unregulated and unsupervised homes for “orphaned” children. The unfortunate reality is that many children, much like Rill and her siblings, were in loving families and were stolen. The children were adopted under false names and fraudulent backgrounds for exorbitant adoption fees. Since the children were adopted under false names, the biological parents were unable to locate their children. In 1995, the adoption records were opened to the victims and their families. Some found each other after decades of living apart; some were not so fortunate.

This book was a quick read yet very powerful and moving. The tragedy and trauma faced by these families is unfathomable. The characters themselves may have been pure fiction but the underlying story of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society is real; children were traded like commodities. If nothing else, this book will educate you and give you a glimpse into the reality of unregulated adoptions and those who were forever affected by one woman’s greed and deception.

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