The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb touches on many topics - P.T. Barnum's circus, the American Civil War, the challenges of physical limitations, fame - but fundamentally it is one woman's story. It is easy to forget that the protagonist, Mercy Lavinia Warren Bump (aka Vinnie), stands only 32 inches tall because her words and actions are so bold. She narrates her autobiography in a commanding, calm tone, and her voice is both distinct and unique to the period, relying on particular quips and turns of phrase to anchor the reader in the nineteenth century.
Melanie Benjamin confronts Vinnie's discomfort with being showcased for her physical limitations in a way that allows readers to witness the challenge of being different, not simply being short. Vinnie's frustration will speak to anyone who has at one time felt singled out due to their appearance, height, weight, race, gender, ...
In the video below, Melanie Benjamin talks with interviewer Kathy Patrick about her research for The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb and discusses the incredible life of Vinnie Bump.
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The Steady Running of the Hour
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