Laura Briggs’s Taking Children: A History of American Terror (University of California Press 2020) is a forceful and captivating book that readers won’t be able to put down, and that listeners from all sort of backgrounds will definitely want to hear more about. Weaving together histories of Black communities (in the US and the Americas more broadly), Native Americans, and multiple Latin Americans countries, Briggs tells us how taking of children has been used as a strategy to terrorize communities that demand social justice and change. This book, timely as no other, asks readers to question the narrative that portrays taking children as something that is done in the benefit of the child, and instead to see it as a strategy that seeks to control and dominate communities that are deem dangerous to the social order. As Prof. Briggs tells us by the end of the interview, in this summer of racial reckoning the BLM movement has asked to eliminate the foster care system for this has been another vehicle for the policing and criminalization of African American communities in the United States. This demand has everything to do with the long history of talking children that is so thoroughly documented in this book.
Yet this is not only a “History of American Terror” as the title suggests, it is also a history about how individuals, families, communities and organizations have resisted this terrorizing strategy. Make no mistake: this is not a story with a happy ending, still, it is one that teaches us that in our past lies both the ghostly hauntings that explain why taking children has been a strategy used for terror, but also why therein we can find the seeds to resistance and transformation. Definitely a must for these troubling and convoluted times.
Bonus: Prof. Briggs’s son makes a short but hilarious appearance in our conversation. We have decided not to delete this portion of the interview because it demonstrates one of Prof. Briggs main scholarly arguments: the distinction between the private and public is illusory. As with many other topics, the COVID-19 pandemic has only rendered visible the realities that were already there.