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

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9780316337540: Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER 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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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of October 2016: At the center of Beth Macy’s exhaustively researched and fascinating Truevine are two brothers, either abducted or bartered to a circus where the African American albinos were forced to present themselves as “Ambassadors from Mars,” or “White Ecuadorian Cannibals,” or “Sheep-Headed Men” (no matter the iteration, they could play mandolin and guitar, too!). George and Willie Muse traveled the world, even performing for the Queen of England, while their mother remained in the Jim Crow South, not knowing where and how they were. She never gave up hope, however, and nearly three decades later they were reunited, setting off a protracted legal battle, the result of which ensured that her sons would be paid their due. Now think about that for a second. It’s almost easier to believe that her children were, in fact, from Mars than to accept that a black woman was able to utilize and benefit from a legal system during a time when lynchings were still horrifyingly common. And yet that’s how determined and fearless she was. Macy deftly, and with palpable reverence, captures the extraordinary bond between the three of them—a bond unscrupulous scouting agents, greedy circus owners, a perfidious father, and 28 years of separation couldn’t break. But this isn’t a story with a bow tacked on at the end. There is an uncomfortable thread that runs throughout: For all mother Muse did to bring her boys home, did the circus provide a better one? A place where the “freaks” found community, purpose--where their otherness was exploited, but also celebrated? (Even rewarded?) And there are other complex racial questions Truevine raises, questions we are still grappling with today. It’s a multi-layered story that will captivate, haunt, and challenge you. --Erin Kodicek, The Amazon Book Review

About the Author:

Beth Macy writes about outsiders and underdogs, and she is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Factory Man. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers and The Roanoke Times, where her reporting has won more than a dozen national awards, including a Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard and the Lukas Prize from the Columbia School of Journalism. She lives in Roanoke, VA.

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