The Baby Thief by Barbara Bisantz Raymond

May 8, 2008
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The Baby Thief
The Untold Story of Georgia Tann
Barbara Bisantz Raymond

Union Square Press
5/08/08
Hardcover/320 pages
ISBN: 1-4027-5863-4
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". . .a hallmark of investigative journalism . . ."

The Baby Thief: “The Untold Story of Georgia Tann, the Baby Seller Who Corrupted Adoption.”

In 1924 when Georgia Tann made Memphis her home base for what would become the most pervasive and powerful organization in Tennessee history, and indeed American history. She changed the rules of adoption and left a legacy of pain and destruction in her wake that wasn’t rectified until long after her death in 1950. Georgia Tann also created a demand for adoptable children where none existed before.

Despite the subtitle of The Baby Thief, Barbara Bisantz Raymond does a wonderful job of providing a three-dimensional portrait of Georgia Tann. Raymond gives credit where credit is due and steps back from what could have easily descended into yellow journalism of the worst sort by playing the blame game. Raymond has a personal interest in Georgia Tann’s story because her daughter is adopted, and Raymond’s emotions and thoughts are poignantly present without being overwhelming.

It would have been far too easy to see only the lives, hopes and dreams Georgia Tann destroyed in exhuming the hidden facts Tann worked so hard to keep buried, but Raymond offers up as much of the real Tann as could be found. With tact and aplomb, Raymond peers behind the masks Tann so carefully constructed. She gives dimension and heart to what many saw as a cold and heartless woman whose only motivation was greed yet others believed was a saint. The Baby Thief is a story not only of Georgia Tann’s excesses and eccentricities, her crimes against families and children. It is not the demonizing of a saint, but the chronicle of the men and women who have made it back from the abyss to help others reunite with their families and their roots.

What Raymond offers is history alongside reconciliation. She is a mother who faced her fear of losing her child to the birth mother and triumphed by gaining a child no longer tortured by questions of who she is and where she came from. Her child became a bridge between two worlds and two families, paving the way for other mothers to reach out and reclaim a relationship with their children and make peace with their choices.

The Baby Thief is a hallmark of investigative journalism—an emotionally charged story of families living through a dark and complex time in American history. It is handled with honesty and tact. It will change you forever.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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