We Were Once a Family: A Story of Love, Death, and Child Removal in America
One of Literary Hub's most anticipated books of 2023
The shocking, deeply reported story of a murder-suicide that claimed the lives of six children--and a searing indictment of the American foster care system.
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About the Author
"Roxanna Asgarian reveals far more than details of that shocking crash--delving deep into the human and systemic failures that preceded the horrifying murder-suicide in a new nonfiction book that's both riveting and deeply disturbing . . . More than an exposé, Asgarian's first book weaves a complex tale that brings those six lost Texas children's families into sharp and intimate focus. A crisp, colorful, and authoritative writer, she reveals difficult-to-obtain details . . . This deeply told tale is brimming with compassion for the children and for their families, as well as hard-hitting and vitally important investigative insights and analysis of the system that failed them all." --Lise Olsen, Texas Observer"Asgarian debuts with a comprehensive and searing look at systemic issues within the foster care and adoption systems . . . Emotional and frequently enraging, it adds up to a blistering indictment . . . Sensitive, impassioned, and eye-opening, this is a must-read." --Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A searching examination . . . Asgarian clearly shows how [a] dysfunctional system hinges on racist assumptions . . . Entirely convincing . . . A sobering call to action." --Kirkus Reviews "Roxanna Asgarian's stunning debut, We Were Once A Family, paints a stark picture of the systemic failures of our child welfare system. Asgarian shows the myriad ways in which the very institutions charged with our children's safety often exacerbate their predicaments--and sometimes, as with the Hart family, can end in unmitigated and unnecessary tragedy. This book is sobering, but also urgent, advocating for change with the strength of a howl in the wild." --Rachel Louise Snyder, author of No Visible Bruises "Roxanna Asgarian could have written another sensational account of the six Black children murdered by the white couple who adopted them. Instead, We Were Once A Family is not only the most in-depth investigation of the tragedy, but also a devastating exposé of the unjust and inhumane child welfare system that caused it to happen. Asgarian shatters the dominant rosy adoption narrative popularized by the government and media by telling the forgotten experiences of foster children, adoptees, and birth families--all traumatized by the forcible separation from their loved ones. This riveting book will raise public awareness of the urgent need to end our disastrous approach to struggling families by radically reimagining child welfare policies and building community-based supports that truly keep children safe." --Dorothy Roberts, author of Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families--And How Abolition Can Build A Safer World "Roxanna Asgarian is one of our most important reporters working today, covering crime, the courts, and child welfare with boundless empathy, rigorous journalism, and unforgettable prose. We Were Once A Family shines a necessary light on all of the systemic forces that made a seemingly unthinkable family tragedy all too preventable--and thus, all the more infuriating. This book astonished me, in part because it shows why American society continues to let children down, over and over again." --Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita and Scoundrel "After Jennifer and Sarah Hart plunged themselves and their six children over a cliff in California, something strange happened: the media focused almost entirely on these white mothers, leaving the stories of the Black children they adopted--and later murdered--untold. Through meticulous and empathetic investigative reporting that stretches from California to Texas and many places in between, Roxanna Asgarian has not just rectified that injustice --she has provided a systemic critique of the predatory, racist child welfare system that is every bit as urgent and undeniable as the movements for police abolition in 2020." --Ethan Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed The Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8? "Powerful and urgent, We Were Once A Family is a crucial investigation into the deeply flawed system of child 'protection' that forcibly separates families, punishes marginalized communities, perpetuates inequality, and causes generational harm. This book creates space for the personal stories of those who are so often silenced to be heard, especially the children who were taken from their families and communities, disappeared across state lines, disbelieved when they reported abuse, incarcerated in for-profit institutions, and ultimately killed by those paid to care for them. With an industry of fostering and adoption being pushed as an alternative to reproductive rights, light must be shed on the systemic abuse so many children face when taken from families who are so often themselves survivors of systemic violence and inequality. Through unflinching reporting, immersive prose and direct testimonies from the families whose children were taken, Asgarian's book is a call for justice and systemic change that must be heard." --Caelainn Hogan, author of Republic of Shame: How Ireland Punished "Fallen Women" and Their Children