Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

by

Lisa Wingate

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Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers Character Analysis

Rill Foss’s younger sister. Camellia is about 10 years old when she and her siblings are kidnapped by Georgia Tann and put up for illegal adoption. Unlike her other siblings, Camellia does not have curly blond hair, but dark hair and dark eyes. Of all the Foss children, Camellia is the most combative and most like their father, Briny Foss. When Camellia and her brother and sisters are taken to the orphanage run by Tann and Ida Murphy, Camellia gets into fights and is frequently in trouble for being disrespectful. Camellia takes a liking to the groundskeeper, Mr. Riggs, who gives the children peppermints. One day while all of her siblings are at a “viewing” (an event where Tann shows off her most attractive children to wealthy potential adoptive parents) Camellia is sexually assaulted by Mr. Riggs. When Rill and the others return to the orphanage, she learns what happened and tries to take care of Camellia. Rill even tells a worker, Miss Dodd, about what happened. However, Riggs is not punished, and Camellia is abruptly taken away. A short time later, Rill asks Tann and Murphy where Camellia is, but Tann tells her that Camellia never existed, possibly indicating that the rumors of children being killed by Tann to keep them quiet are true. Either way, Camellia is never seen or heard from again.

Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers Quotes in Before We Were Yours

The Before We Were Yours quotes below are all either spoken by Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers or refer to Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Personal Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine edition of Before We Were Yours published in 2017.
Chapter 14 Quotes

Her hand is knotted in a fist between us. I take it in mine, pry open her fingers to see what she’s holding, and the minute I do, all the cookies and ice cream from the party come up in my throat. Dirty, round peppermints are stuck so tight to my sister’s palm, they’re melted into her skin.

I close my eyes and shake my head and try not to know, but I do. My mind drags me kicking and screaming to Mrs. Murphy’s cellar, into the dark corner behind the stairs where ash coats the coal bin and the boiler furnace. I see thin, strong arms fighting, legs thrashing around. I see a big hand closing over a screaming mouth, the dirty, oily fingers squeezing so hard they leave four round bruises.

Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation long mobile
Chapter 16 Quotes

Even the name sounds strange in my mind now. People keep calling me May. Maybe Rill’s still on the river someplace with Camellia, and Lark, and Fern, and Gabion. Maybe they’re drifting down in the lazy low-water summer currents, watching boats pass and barges go by and Cooper’s hawks circle wide and slow, hunting for fish to dive after.

Maybe Rill is only a story I read, like Huck Finn and Jim. Maybe I’m not even Rill and never was.

I turn and run down the steps and across the yard, my dress sweeping up around my legs. I stretch out my arms and throw back my head and make my own breeze, and for a minute, I find Rill again. I’m her.

Page Number: 175-176
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Perhaps you should have thought of that before you invented some ridiculous story about your fictitious sister and poor Mr. Riggs.”

Blood pounds in my head. I try to make sense of what she’s saying, but I can’t.

“There never was any… Camellia. You and I both know that, don’t we, May? There were four of you when you came here. Two little sisters and one little brother. Only four. And we’ve done a marvelous job in finding homes, thus far. Good homes. And for that, you are most grateful, aren’t you?” She motions to Mrs. Pulnik. […] “There will be no more of this nonsense out of you. Do you understand?”

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Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers Character Timeline in Before We Were Yours

The timeline below shows where the character Camellia Foss/Iris Weathers appears in Before We Were Yours. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...their first five children so easily. Rill brings Fern to Lark (who’s six) and tells Camellia (who’s ten) to watch them. Camellia doesn’t like this but agrees. Rill is worried about... (full context)
Chapter 4
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...to pay the doctor and worries that he’ll be arrested if he doesn’t. Rill and Camellia notice that the midwife is stealing Queenie’s hat, so Camellia steps forward to take it... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...the motorboat, Zede tells Rill to get the younger kids fed and put in bed. Camellia protests, but Zede tells her to listen to Rill and gives them strict instructions not... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...give Gabion (the youngest sibling at two years old) an extra piece of cornpone, but Camellia eats hers up quickly. After dinner, the youngest kids fall asleep, so Rill and Camellia... (full context)
Chapter 6
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...teenager, Silas, on the boat to help take care of the younger kids. Rill and Camellia don’t like this, but Zede insists upon it and warns them one more time not... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
After everyone’s eaten, Silas and Rill start talking. Rill tells Camellia to help clean Gabion up, which irritates Camellia. Silas asks Rill if she’s ever going... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...the boat. All the younger kids look to Rill, too scared to make a noise. Camellia whispers that the person isn’t Zede when the person steps onto the boat. The man... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
...he’s lying about having seen them. Rill hears a creak in the boat and realizes Camellia is trying to sneak out the back. She tells the man she must clean up... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...of the boat by a warehouse. The man in charge tells another man to hold Camellia (who has dark hair) back until Miss Tann has seen the four blond children. Tann... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Lark to her side. Rill looks at the other two terrified kids and then at Camellia, who has evidently realized the truth that Rill is trying not to acknowledge: Tann isn’t... (full context)
Chapter 8
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...sees kids playing in the yard, but the house has boarded windows and peeling paint. Camellia asks if they’re at the hospital and Tann says they must let Mrs. Murphy wash... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...to get a closer look at all the kids, admiring their blond hair and criticizing Camellia’s dark hair. Tann explains that Camellia has also been fighting back and Murphy explains that... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...her best to get them all to sit quietly by the stairs. Rill notes that Camellia is looking for escape routes and whispers to her to stop because Briny, who is... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Sherry and Stevie. Tann also says that Rill and her siblings will go by May, Iris, Bonnie, Beth, and Robby Weathers. Murphy is to make sure all the kids are ready... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...time. Mrs. Murphy comes out of her office smelling like whiskey and gets mad at Camellia for asking where Briny and Queenie are. Murphy says that Camellia is the reason the... (full context)
Chapter 10
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...she sees peppermints on everyone’s pillows. Rill carries Fern back to her own cot while Camellia pops up and begins crunching on her peppermints. Rill takes the rest of the peppermints... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...room, past the man (whom the woman calls Mr. Riggs) who gave them the peppermints. Camellia smiles at him as the nurse, Mrs. Pulnik, marches the kids up the stairs. Mrs.... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
A group of older boys tries to stop Rill and the younger kids from passing. Camellia wants to fight them, but Rill decides to offer them the peppermints in exchange for... (full context)
Chapter 12
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Stevie, who has a painful goose egg under his hair from a nurse hitting him. Camellia asks Rill what she heard at the window. Rill says she didn’t hear anything about... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill goes back to her siblings but doesn’t bother telling Camellia they might need an extra bath—Rill has a bad feeling Camellia won’t need one because... (full context)
Chapter 14
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...to eat cookies and sandwiches, color, and play with new toys. Rill feels bad for Camellia but thinks it’s better that she didn’t come because she doesn’t like cuddling and the... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
When they get back to the house, Rill starts thinking about Camellia and how Rill is supposed to tell her about Gabion. Rill dreads the anger Camellia... (full context)
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill grabs Camellia’s hand and pulls her over to the rain barrel to wash her up so the... (full context)
Chapter 16
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and is nicer than the others, so Rill hopes Miss Dodd might tell her where Camellia is. One of the older boys told Rill that he heard Mrs. Murphy tell Mr.... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and Rill realizes Miss Dodd doesn’t know anything about Riggs. Rill starts to wonder if Camellia really is dead and remembers the last thing Briny told her: “You watch over the... (full context)
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Miss Dodd everything about being kidnapped and life at the orphanage, including her fear that Camellia died in a closet. Miss Dodd is stunned and tells Rill to stay strong while... (full context)
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...Rill tries to make sense of this, but Tann tells Rill that they both know Camellia never existed—only four children were brought to the orphanage, and Rill is very grateful that... (full context)
Chapter 19
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Family Secrets Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
...and Avery, starting with the names of her parents (Queenie and Briny) and her siblings (Camellia, Lark, Fern, and Gabion). Avery is mesmerized by the tragic story of how the family... (full context)
Chapter 24
Personal Identity Theme Icon
Injustice and Class Divisions Theme Icon
Child Trafficking, Heritage, and Rewriting History Theme Icon
Rill has a dream that she, Lark, Fern, Gabion, Camellia, Queenie, Zede, and Silas are all together on the shanty boat heading down the river.... (full context)