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We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America

"The tragedy of the Harts--a white couple who intentionally drove their car off a cliff, killing themselves and the six Black children they had adopted--was sensationalized by the media and raised a myriad of questions in 2018, but Asgarian is only interested in answering the important, frustratingly overlooked ones. She lays bare the racist, classist system that ultimately claimed the children's lives, as well as the cycle of punishment and trauma that system perpetuates for countless other kids and their birth families. Both harrowing and deeply compassionate, We Were Once a Family argues fiercely for a more humane world."

Olivia M.

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Author Roxanna Asgarian
Publisher Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Publication Date 2023-03-14
Section New Hardcover - Fiction / Sociology / All Staff Suggestions / Nonfiction Suggestions / Olivia M.
Type New
Format Hardcover
ISBN 9780374602291

The story of a murder that claimed the lives of six children, and an indictment of the foster care system.

On March 26, 2018, rescue workers discovered a crumpled SUV and the bodies of two women and multiple children at the bottom of a cliff. Investigators soon concluded that the crash was a murder-suicide, but there was more to the story: Jennifer and Sarah Hart, it turned out, were a white married couple who had adopted the six Black children from two different Texas families. Behind the family’s loving facade was an alleged pattern of abuse and neglect that had been ignored as the couple withdrew the children from school and moved west.

Immersive journalism of the highest order, Roxanna Asgarian’s We Were Once a Family is a revelation of precarious lives; it is also a shattering exposé of the foster care and adoption systems that produced this tragedy. As a journalist in Houston, Asgarian sought out the children’s birth families and put them at the center of the story. We follow the lives of the Harts’ adopted children and their birth parents, and the machinations of the state agency that sent the children far away. Asgarian’s reporting uncovers persistent racial biases and corruption as young people of color are separated from birth parents without proper cause. The result is a riveting narrative and a deeply reported indictment of a system that continues to fail America’s most vulnerable children while upending the lives of their families.

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