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True Crime Book Club - Past Titles: Oct. 2023

Trigger Warning: Take a look through our previous titles from our True Crime Book Club.

"Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived the Tennessee Children's Home Society" by Judy Christie & Lisa Wingate

  1. What were the most shocking or surprising aspects of the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal as presented in the book? How did this revelation impact your understanding of historical adoption practices?
  2. The book shares the stories of individuals who were directly affected by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society. Whose story affected you the most, and why?
  3. Discuss the role of Georgia Tann in perpetuating the scandal. How did her actions and the operations of the Tennessee Children's Home Society impact the lives of innocent children and families?
  4. The book highlights the resilience and strength of the survivors. How did they cope with the trauma and challenges they faced, and what can we learn from their experiences?
  5. In what ways did the scandal expose the flaws and lack of oversight in the adoption system during that time? How have adoption practices evolved since then, and what improvements can still be made to ensure ethical and transparent adoptions?
  6. How did the legal and societal context of the early to mid-20th century enable Georgia Tann's criminal activities? Discuss the implications of her connections and influence within the legal and political spheres.
  7. Consider the emotional toll on both birth parents and adopted children. How did the scandal affect their lives, identities, and relationships with their families? How can such traumas impact future generations?
  8. Reflect on the impact of media and public awareness in bringing Tann's crimes to light. How can responsible journalism and media play a role in exposing social injustices and advocating for change?
  9. Discuss the ethical implications of adoption and child welfare. How can society ensure that vulnerable children are protected and that adoption processes prioritize the best interests of the child and their birth families?
  10. What are the lessons we can learn from the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal? How can we work towards preventing similar atrocities from occurring in the future?
  • Georgia Tann was an American child trafficker and the mastermind behind the Tennessee Children's Home Society (TCHS), an adoption agency in Memphis, Tennessee. Operating from the 1920s until 1950, Tann and her accomplices engaged in a series of crimes related to illegal adoptions, child abduction, fraud, and abuse.
  • Here are the key aspects of Georgia Tann's criminal activities and the Tennessee Children's Home Society:
    • Illegal Adoptions and Child Trafficking:
      • Georgia Tann used the façade of a legitimate adoption agency, the Tennessee Children's Home Society, to facilitate the illegal adoption of children. She exploited the lack of oversight in the adoption system during that era to profit from the illegal placement of children into adoptive families.
    • Child Abduction and Kidnapping:
      • Tann and her associates were involved in the systematic kidnapping and abduction of children, often taken from poverty-stricken families, unwed mothers, or those she deemed "unfit" for parenting. Children were frequently taken without consent or under false pretenses.
    • Fraud and Deception:
      • Tann and her organization engaged in fraudulent practices to speed up the adoption process and maximize profits. Birth records were altered, and adoptive parents were often given misleading or false information about the child's background, medical history, and birth parents.
    • Abuse and Neglect:
      • Reports and survivor accounts indicate that the conditions within the Tennessee Children's Home Society were often deplorable. Children were subjected to neglect, inadequate care, and sometimes physical and emotional abuse while under Tann's custody.
    • Death and Inhumane Treatment:
      • Tragically, some children under Tann's care suffered from malnutrition, illness, and neglect, leading to untimely deaths. There are accounts of children being mistreated and dying due to the appalling conditions in the facilities.
    • Power and Influence:
      • Georgia Tann had significant influence and connections within the legal system, the government, and the media, which helped her operate for years without scrutiny. Her connections allowed her to manipulate the adoption process and cover up her illegal activities.
  • The crimes committed by Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society were exposed after her death in 1950. The revelations shocked the nation and shed light on the need for reform in adoption laws and regulations. Tann's actions had a profound and lasting impact on the lives of countless children and families, and her story remains a dark chapter in the history of adoption practices in the United States.

Episode One: Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society -  Unearthed: Memphis


  • Lisa Wingate
    • Lisa Wingate was born on August 7, 1964, in Neosho, Missouri, USA. She grew up in a small town in southwest Missouri and developed a love for storytelling and writing at an early age. She pursued her education at Oklahoma State University and later worked in journalism and marketing.
    • In her literary career, Lisa Wingate has written numerous novels that often delve into themes of family, relationships, and history. Some of her notable works include "Before We Were Strangers," "The Book of Lost Friends," "Before and After," and the best-selling novel "Before We Were Strangers."
    • One of her most acclaimed novels is "Before We Were Strangers," which intertwines the stories of two women from different generations. The book was well-received by readers and critics alike, showcasing Wingate's talent for weaving compelling narratives.
    • Lisa Wingate's writing often draws from her own experiences, interests, and research into historical events. Her works often shed light on lesser-known aspects of history and aim to resonate with readers on a personal and emotional level.
    • She continues to write and is active in the literary community, engaging with her readers through events, book signings, and social media. Lisa Wingate's works have gained a significant following and have been translated into multiple languages, reaching a wide and diverse readership.
  • Judy Christie
    • Judy Christie was born in Shreveport, Louisiana, and has spent a significant portion of her career in the world of journalism. She has worked as a newspaper reporter and editor, and her journalistic endeavors have allowed her to cover a variety of topics and stories, ranging from human interest pieces to hard news.
    • In addition to her journalism career, Judy Christie is also known for her fiction writing. She has written numerous novels, often set in the American South and featuring themes related to family, relationships, and small-town life. Some of her notable works include "Magnolia Market," "Wreath, A Girl," and "Gone to Green."
    • Judy Christie's novels often blend her love for storytelling with her understanding of the dynamics of Southern culture and life, creating engaging and relatable narratives.
    • She continues to be active in the literary community, engaging with readers through book signings, speaking engagements, and online platforms. Judy Christie's contributions to both journalism and fiction have been appreciated by a wide readership, and she remains an influential figure in the world of contemporary literature.
  • Lisa Wingate and Judy Christie worked together to research and compile these stories, aiming to shed light on the historical events and the impact they had on the lives of the individuals involved. They conducted extensive research, including interviews with survivors, archival exploration, and documentation review, to piece together a comprehensive and accurate account of the Tennessee Children's Home Society scandal and its aftermath.
  • Before and After seeks to honor the resilience and courage of the survivors and families affected by this dark chapter in history, providing a voice to those whose stories were often hidden or suppressed. It emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and understanding the past while raising awareness about the atrocities committed and advocating for ethical adoption practices in the present and future.


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