Before and After: The Incredible RealLife Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society. By Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate. Oct. 2019.320p. Ballantine, $26 (9780593130148). 362.73092.
From the 1920s to the 1950s, Georgia Tann trafficked children through the Tennessee Children's Home Society (TCHS). Tann manipulated and intimidated impoverished parents into handing over their babies to TCHS and even resorted to kidnapping to obtain charges for her unscrupulous business. Many children died from neglect and untreated illnesses under Tann's care. When Wingate's novel Before We Were Yours (2017), inspired by the scandal, was released, something unexpected happened. Survivors of TCHS began to reach out to Wingate, flooding her inbox with messages. The outpouring sparked an idea: a reunion of TCHS survivors. Wingate called upon her journalist friend Christie to document attendees' stories and give voices to Tann's victims. The authors are careful not to exploit the trauma endured by the victims, and the result is ultimately an uplifting exploration of what family truly means. Most of the stories are touching tales of discovering one's true history and reuniting with biological relatives. This title is an excellent companion to Wingate's novel and will surely be a hit on the book club circuit.--Michelle Ross