“Taking Children: A History of American Terror” by Laura Briggs, a professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, is hailed in novelist Celeste Ng’s new New York Times instant bestseller, ” Our Missing Hearts”, a dystopian novel from the near future where anti-Asian hatred looms large in the United States. It focuses on the story of Margaret, a Chinese-American poet, and Bird, her 12-year-old son, from whom she was separated as lines from her poems begin to appear on resistance protest signs.
In the author’s note, Ng writes that most of the events in the book are inspired by real events.
“If this resonates with you, as I hope it does, learn more about the many cases, past and present, in which children have been taken from their families: separations from enslaved families, government boarding schools for children (like the one in Carlisle, Pennsylvania), the inequities inherent in the foster care system, the migrant family separations that still occur at the U.S. southern border and beyond,” writes Ng. “Much more attention needs to be paid to this subject, but Laura Briggs’ ‘Taking Children: A History of American Terror’ provides invaluable insight.”
Briggs’ book examines the 400-year history of the United States’ use of child abduction from marginalized communities – from the abduction of black and indigenous children during the founding of America to Donald Trump’s policy of family separation for Central American migrants and asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border – as a violent tool for political purposes. It was published in 2020 by University of California Press.
“I have long admired scientists and mathematicians who do such a good job of reaching audiences, even children, with what is engaging and important in their research. I’ve suggested to many colleagues that they consider collaborating with documentary filmmakers to make their research more efficient,” says Briggs. “I feel really lucky that Celeste Ng made this her project to tell the stories of children separated from their communities for political purposes, and that she found my historical research useful in this work.”
Briggs is an expert on US and international child welfare policy and transnational and transracial adoption. Her research investigates the relationship between reproductive politics, neoliberalism, and the long duration of American empire and imperialism. She has also been at the forefront of reshaping the field and frameworks of transnational feminisms.
In addition to her numerous publications, Briggs is a public intellectual whose work has been featured in court cases, podcasts and journalism, including on National Public Radio, Slate, PBS, New Republic, Indian Country Today and Ms Magazine.