I finished reading Before and After yesterday. I don’t think Lisa Wingate expected to open this door when she wrote her bestselling fictional novel based upon the horrors of Georgia Tann’s methods of operating an adoption agency – separating children from their original families purely for profit.
However, as she embarked on book tours across the country, the sheer number of real lives impacted by Georgia Tann made themselves evident. I believe the reunion in Memphis that the new book is based upon was an effort on Wingate’s part to repay the living victims, many of whom are descendants of those directly impacted, for a good story that made her even more successful than she was before (she had written quite a few books before this phenomenal story).
In the Afterward chapter of Before and After, a story about Georgia Tann adoptees and their remarkable reunion in Memphis –
“We need to be given peace and
freed of the misery that comes
from not knowing,
and allowed to live with the truth
before we pass from this world.”
~ Letter from a TCHS adoptee
to her unknown birth family
The reunion proved that people are interested in hearing what the adoptees and their descendants have to say, that strangers care about this long-ago miscarriage of justice.
Countless families have a connection to the horror of Tann and those movers and shakers of Memphis who let her operate until 1950. This is a story that doesn’t have an ending. It never will. For thousands of families, tens of thousands of lives, it will always be a part of their history.
There’s fear of the unknown. My adoptee father had that and he wasn’t a Tann baby. The Salvation Army separated him from his unwed, poverty stricken mother.
Many, if not most, adoptees hunger for their personal information – their medical history in particular.
Being a Tann victim is like being a member of a strange club. Those who’s lives are somehow a part of the the Tennessee Children’s Home Society story. There is a shared experience with all of those who’s lives have been impacted by this.
For many of us (myself included) there is a feeling of kinship when we find our long ago “lost” family members. Not all reunions go happy but mine have.
What I took away from reading this book is that there is a universal aspect to the experience of most adoptees. Though the Georgia Tann/TCHS story was a particularly bad scandal, the effects on the Tann adoptees is so very similar to the wounds and trauma that every adoptee experiences (even the ones who aren’t aware it is there – that is my own opinion about it but from exposure to a diversity of adoptees, I don’t believe I’m far wrong).
Before We Were Yours (the fictional account) is a fast and engaging read. Before and After is a bit more tedious but the real story of real impacts on real people. I recommend both books.