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About The Book

The acclaimed authors of the “emotional literary roller coaster” (The Washington Post) and Good Morning America book club pick We Are Not Like Them return with this moving and provocative novel about a Black woman who finds an abandoned white baby, sending her on a collision course with her past, her family, and a birth mother who doesn’t want to be found.

Cinnamon Haynes has fought hard for a life she never thought was possible—a good man by her side, a steady job as a career counselor at a local community college, and a cozy house in a quaint little beach town. It may not look like much, but it’s more than she ever dreamed of or what her difficult childhood promised. Her life’s mantra is to be good, quiet, grateful. Until something shifts and Cinnamon is suddenly haunted by a terrifying question: “Is this all there is?”

Daisy Dunlap has had her own share of problems in her nineteen years on earth—she also has her own big dreams for a life that’s barely begun. Her hopes for her future are threatened when she gets unexpectedly pregnant. Desperate, broke, and alone, she hides this development from everyone close to her and then makes a drastic decision with devastating consequences.

Daisy isn’t the only one with something to hide. When Cinnamon finds an abandoned baby in a park and takes the blonde-haired, blue-eyed newborn into her home, the ripple effects of this decision risk exposing the truth about Cinnamon’s own past, which she’s gone to great pains to portray as idyllic to everyone…even herself.

As Cinnamon struggles to contain old demons, navigate the fault lines that erupt in her marriage, and deal with the shocking judgments from friends and strangers alike about why a woman like her has a baby like this, her one goal is to do right by the child she grows more attached to with each passing day. It’s the exact same conviction that drives Daisy as she tries to outrun her heartache and reckon with her choices.

These two women, unlikely friends and kindred spirits must face down their secrets and trauma and unite for the sake of the baby they both love in their own unique way when Daisy’s grandparents, who would rather die than see one of their own raised by a Black woman, threaten to take custody.

Once again, these authors bring their “empathetic, riveting, and authentic” (Laura Dave, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling to an unforgettable novel that revolves around provocative and timely questions about race, class, and motherhood. Is being a mother a right, an obligation, or a privilege? Who gets to be a mother? And to whom? And what are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of marriage, friendship, and our dreams?

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for You Were Always Mine includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with authors Christine Pride and Jo Piazza. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


The acclaimed authors of the “emotional literary roller coaster” (The Washington Post) and Good Morning America Book Club pick We Are Not Like Them return with this moving and provocative novel about a Black woman who finds an abandoned white baby, sending her on a collision course with her past, her family, and a birth mother who doesn’t want to be found.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. In the beginning of the novel (page 30), Mother’s Day brings up a flurry of emotions for Cinnamon and Daisy. Daisy’s mother died when she was young and Cinnamon’s mother abandoned her as a baby, leaving them both to grieve a similar loss under different circumstances. How do you think these losses affect their individual views of motherhood?

2. Do you feel Cinnamon’s experience of being abandoned as a baby and spending her childhood in the foster care system was a major factor in why she chose to bring Bluebell into her home rather than involving the authorities right away? Why or why not?

3. In addition to themes of motherhood, You Were Always Mine has many frank conversations about race. In chapter four, Cinnamon recounts a personal experience being in foster care when a white woman took her to the local art museum to see a collection of nineteenth-century photographs of Black caretakers. Cinnamon has flashbacks of one photograph she saw that day of a young Black child caring for an infant white baby. Why do you think after all these years Cinnamon is remembering this photograph and how do the feelings it brings up influence her thinking about the possibility of raising Bluebell?

4. Along those lines, Cinnamon’s husband, Jayson, says that it would be impossible for him as a Black man to raise a white little girl, to even take her to the park. How do you think his fears impact Cinnamon’s decision-making about both Bluebell and their marriage?

5. Throughout the novel, readers experience every step of Cinnamon caring for Bluebell in real time, whereas we mostly hear from Daisy through a series of letters, recounting her reasons for leaving Bluebell, her journey, and her reflections about her past and future. Do Cinnamon and Daisy’s alternating voices highlight any important similarities or differences about their experiences and decisions during the novel? Did you relate to one character in particular?

6. In Cinnamon and Lucia’s quest to track down Daisy, the pair of friends learn of unsettling information about Daisy’s grandfather having ties to a white supremacist group (page 122). How do you think this might initially impact Cinnamon’s feelings toward Daisy? Bluebell?

7. Much of this story focuses on the characters grappling with, revisiting, and coming to terms with their pasts. Why do you think Cinnamon decided to keep her time in foster care a secret from those closest to her, especially Jayson?

8. Daisy grew up never knowing her mother or father, just like Cinnamon. Do you think this influenced the connection the two women made?

9. Daisy was raised in an openly racist household, having never known anyone who wasn’t white for a majority of her life. Daisy’s friendship with Cinnamon is one she recognized would anger her grandfather, but she kept this grim satisfaction to herself (pages 173–174). Do you think that factored into her decision to leave Bluebell with Cinnamon one way or another?

10. How does Lucia’s open judgment impact Cinnamon and her decision to temporarily care for Bluebell? Is Lucia right to share her opinion on Cinnamon’s choices? Why or why not?

11. Do you believe Cinnamon should have consulted Jayson before agreeing to foster Bluebell? What if he’d refused; should she then have left Bluebell to the foster system?

12. Cinnamon’s experience with family, outside of her grandma Thelma, was very traumatic. She experienced abandonment, unstable living conditions, and felt disposed of by family members who agreed to care for her in place of her birth parents. When Celia tries to re-enter Cinnamon’s life, she is forced to work through her past. What do you think Cinnamon should have done? Did Aunt Celia deserve forgiveness?

13. One of the important themes of this book is the idea of chosen family and Cinnamon finds that in her first best friend, Lucia. How does this friendship affect Cinnamon? When Lucia says “I’ve got you” (page 203), how do you think these three simple words make Cinnamon feel? Supported? Relieved? What might this mean to Cinnamon in the long-term?

14. Is Jayson’s response to learning about Cinnamon’s time in foster care and homelessness warranted? Does the fact that she kept so much from him make Cinnamon a stranger or were you sympathetic to her reasoning? Why or why not?

15. Knowing what she knows about them, what do you think Cinnamon was feeling when Taylor informed her that Daisy’s grandparents were coming forward to claim the baby? Is reunification the right solution given the history? Was Cinnamon wrong to knowingly lie to Taylor at CPS? Can you understand her motivations?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. “Lucia doesn’t—can’t—truly get what it’s like to read about a person being attacked or brutalized solely because they are Black” (page 123) and “That’s the thing: she and Lucia can both be outraged at whatever injustices, but the danger just isn’t the same” (page 124). In these pages, Lucia, who is Puerto Rican, vocally defends herself in a moment of racism. How are Cinnamon and Lucia’s circumstances similar? How are they different? And why?

2. Daisy’s decision to leave Bluebell with Cinnamon was a very personal one, and one met with little support. “That’s when it hit me, the gravity of the mistake I had made. Not in having you. Not even in leaving you with Cinnamon. No, it was telling Heather . . .” (page 167). In this moment, we see why Daisy built walls around her decision, similar to how Cinnamon had a guard up around her past. How do you think Heather’s reaction and condescending remarks impacted Daisy’s decision-making as Bluebell’s mother?

3. “I can’t help but think a baby like this will have many potential families stepping forward to care for her and adopt her in the event we cannot locate the biological relatives, which I very much hope the local police are working to do as we speak” (page 212). What do you think the judge meant by saying “a baby like this”? How do you think Cinnamon felt in hearing these words, having never been adopted out of foster care, and rather left to live out of her car after losing all support?

4. In Cinnamon’s certification class for becoming a foster parent, the teacher asks if it’s true that “All you need is love” (page 232). Is this true? What if you are raising a child in an interracial household, how might your answer change? What steps do you need to take in ensuring all of the child’s needs are met, including talking with your children about where they come from?

A Conversation with Christine Pride and Jo Piazza

Q: Where did your inspiration for You Were Always Mine come from?

A: We love a premise that involves an enticing “what if,” so it started with that nugget: What if a Black woman found a white baby . . . and kept it? We came up with this idea back in 2018. So, well before the world was put in a state of upheaval when it comes to reproductive choice in the wake of the repeal of Roe V. Wade. But now the themes feel even that much more urgent, important, and fraught to be thinking about and discussing. What does motherhood mean in America? How and why do you choose to become a mother or not? And who gets to make that choice?

Q: Christine, you are childless by choice and Jo, you gave birth to your third child during the editing process of You Were Always Mine. How did your decisions on and experiences with motherhood influence your novel?

A: This book is a lot like We Are Not Like Them in terms of our wanting to leverage a “she said/she said” perspective. We wanted to reflect the ranges of choices and thought processes and decisions women are presented with, through the lens of relatable characters and by drawing on our own personal experiences and observations, which are very different. There’s no one right way to become a mother and there’s no one right way not to be a mother, right? There’s so much judgment in our society about those decisions, so many preconceptions about that, especially for women who are child-free by choice. There’s no shortage of opinions, spoken, some unspoken, some one-on-one, some societal: You're going to regret this or, it’s selfish, or, are you really child-free by choice or you just couldn't become a mother? Christine has heard it all!

We want to convey just how much more complicated the decision to become a mother (or not) is than typically gets presented. Because it does become such a binary choice: You become a mother, you don't become a mother. But we wanted to lean into all the nuance and the shades of gray and in doing so challenge our stereotypes and biases.

Q: Are there other parts of the story that were personal to you or drawn from your own lives as inspiration?

A. Christine’s parents were foster parents and that was a significant inspiration. They went through the process to be certified as emergency foster parents when she was in middle school. Shortly thereafter, they took in two girls—one infant, one toddler—from two different families. The initial placements were supposed to be for up to seventy-two hours, but her parents ended up adopting the infant and raising her. The toddler was eventually reunited with her birth mom, but continued to spend weekends at their house through adulthood. Christine has had a front-row seat to the rewards, challenges, and complexities of foster care and the CPS system, of blending families, and of the sense of both belonging and displacement that goes hand in hand with these circumstances. That vantage point infused the story.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and the research you did for You Were Always Mine?

A: We had so much trial and error getting into the collaborative groove with our first book together—there were much fewer logistical hiccups (and tears) in the process for this second go around of our partnership. As always, we outlined extensively so we would have a road map of where the story was going to go and then took turns taking the first stab at writing draft chapters, which we would then go back and forth to revise. As with We Are Not Like Them, much of our research involved talking to people who have experience with the foster care system; we also read a lot of first-hand accounts. The direction of the book was also driven by the deep conversations we had while writing, which is a big part of our process and a big advantage to writing as a team.

Q: Riley Wilson was a main character in your last novel, We Are Not Like Them. Why did you make the decision to carry her over into your newest novel, and do you plan to intertwine past voices into future works?

A: We just thought an easter egg and cameo would be so fun for readers of We Are Not Like Them. We’re so attached to Riley and Jen as characters, it was nice to think of them living on and crossing paths with future characters. It would be fun to keep up this tradition in future books if we can find a way.

Q: Cinnamon and Daisy share similar histories. Why did you decide to have their stories align so much?

A: Daisy and Cinnamon are in a lot of ways kindred spirits given that they’ve both experienced a lot of family trauma and loss—it gives them an understanding of each other that underscores their instant connection and bond. Daisy and Cinnamon’s stories align a lot, in the same way so many other people’s stories align, which is to say it’s not uncommon (sadly) that people have to navigate hard childhoods and we wanted to look at how these two characters found their respective paths as survivors.

Q: You tackle race in this book, but also class in a sense. How important was it to you to create characters that were wrestling in one way or another with these issues?

A: Very! We’re very intrigued by this idea of how race plays out in intimate relationships—here a friendship and a caretaking scenario. A lot of people wouldn’t think twice of a white woman taking in a Black baby, but the reverse has very different implications and we wanted the reader to be able to wrestle with those. We also have two characters who are decidedly not privileged in any sense of the word and that informs their choices and their options.

As a culture we have this very white affluent notion of motherhood shoved down our throats. This version where you get to the ideal age for procreation—not too young, not too old, then sit down and look at the calendar and decide you’re having a baby in spring and then order all the beautiful things from the Internet with your loving partner who is totally on board.

The fact of the matter is the vast majority of women in the world do not find themselves in that idealized scenario. Their pregnancies may be a surprise; they may not have any money to either have an abortion or to raise a child; they may want to have a child but not have the resources for fertility treatments or be candidates for adoption, etc. etc. And so it is for all the mothers in this story, they find themselves in more complicated—and realistic—circumstances that we don’t talk about nearly enough and that we rarely see in commercial fiction.

Q: What do you hope You Were Always Mine will add to the conversation, and what do you hope readers will take away from your novel?

A: We hope that this book inspires people to think critically about who gets to be a mother and why and to whom? We also want people to celebrate the idea of family—especially chosen family, which most of us have in some way or another.

Q: What’s next for you both?

A: We’re working on another book together! It’s called I Never Knew You At All, about a Black woman whose life is turned upside down when the grandfather of her white husband is implicated in a decades-old hate crime, exploring questions of justice, forgiveness, and what we can and cannot forgive.

We’re excited for you to read it in 2025!

About The Authors

Photograph by Christine Han

Christine Pride is a writer, editor, and longtime publishing veteran. She’s held editorial posts at many different trade imprints, including Doubleday, Broadway, Crown, Hyperion, and Simon & Schuster. As an editor, Christine has published a range of books, with a special emphasis on inspirational stories and memoirs, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. As a freelance editorial consultant, she does select editing and proposal/content development, as well as teaching and coaching, and pens a regular column—“Race Matters”—for Cup of Jo. She lives in New York City.

Brittney Valdez

Jo Piazza is a bestselling author, podcast creator, and award-winning journalist. She is the national and international bestselling author of many critically acclaimed novels and nonfiction books including We Are Not Like ThemCharlotte Walsh Likes to WinThe Knockoff, and How to Be Married. Her work has been published in ten languages in twelve countries and four of her books have been optioned for film and television. A former editor, columnist, and travel writer with Yahoo, Current TV, and the Daily News (New York), her work has also appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesNew York magazine, GlamourElleTimeMarie ClaireThe Daily Beast, and Slate. She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania in economics and communication, a master’s in journalism from Columbia University, and a master’s in religious studies from New York University. 

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Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (June 13, 2023)
  • Runtime: 12 hours and 23 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797160498

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