Truevine: Book summary and reviews of Truevine by Beth Macy

Truevine

Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South

by Beth Macy

Truevine by Beth Macy X
Truevine by Beth Macy
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Book Summary

The true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back.

The year was 1899 and the place a sweltering tobacco farm in the Jim Crow South town of Truevine, Virginia. George and Willie Muse were two little boys born to a sharecropper family. One day a white man offered them a piece of candy, setting off events that would take them around the world and change their lives forever.

Captured into the circus, the Muse brothers performed for royalty at Buckingham Palace and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York's Madison Square Garden. They were global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success was in the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even "Ambassadors from Mars." Back home, their mother never accepted that they were "gone" and spent 28 years trying to get them back.

Through hundreds of interviews and decades of research, Beth Macy expertly explores a central and difficult question: Where were the brothers better off? On the world stage as stars or in poverty at home? Truevine is a compelling narrative rich in historical detail and rife with implications to race relations today.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This first-rate journey into human trafficking, slavery, and familial bonding is an engrossing example of spirited, determined reportage." - Kirkus

"There's a page-turner buried in Macy's meandering account, but multiple backstories - circus history, Roanoke history, Jim Crow life for blacks and whites, Macy's personal memoir ... and snippets from scholarly writing - disrupt the reader's focus." - Publishers Weekly

"A rambling, colorful, and thought-provoking medley of human stories intersecting with one another in carnival tents and Virginia backlands, this solid popular history has much to offer regarding issues of race, family, disability, and spectacle." - Library Journal

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Author Information

Beth Macy Author Biography

Beth Macy is the author of the widely acclaimed and bestselling books Truevine and Factory Man. Based in Roanoke, Virginia for three decades, her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard.

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