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Truevine

by Beth Macy

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3801867,637 (3.58)24
History. Multi-Cultural. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. HTML: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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    akblanchard: Unusual medical conditions and racism as experienced by African Americans in the Jim Crow South.
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» See also 24 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
I love Beth Macy's writing. Being from Roanoke, I was fascinated in what I learned about my hometown that I never knew. This was a sad but touching story. So much injustice but family prevailed. ( )
  LibrisAmor | Jan 30, 2022 |
I just did not care about this book. I finished Dopesick recently, by the same author, so I decided to read Truevine because I already owned it. Nope, it's competently written, but just not engaging. ( )
  KimMeyer | Sep 8, 2020 |
The subjects presented in this book are all interesting and worthy of discussion: The lives of the Muse brothers, life in the Jim Crow South and its lasting effects; the history of the circus, and the rights of the disabled.
Unfortunately, the way these subjects were presented did not help the reader better understand the lives of the Muse brothers; rather they distracted the reader because they became tangents of such minute detail that the reader tended to become confused and exhausted. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
This book is in ways monumental and in other ways a let-down. What's impressive is the thorough, from-the-ground-up history Macy gives of Roanoke-region blacks and Jim Crow. I was captivated and learned quite a bit. I also respect the justice she was doing her subjects, because there is no way to understand their lives without that context.

The book's main narrative is from Macy's journey of discovery, which twists and turns. It's a huge strength, especially in the beginning, because she gives us questions to ponder. Ultimately, though, it's a narrative that has a lot of room for tangents, and many times throughout the book we get into the weeds. At points I found myself lost, wondering where exactly I lost the trail of the story.

What is lovable about the narrative, too, is that it leaves ample room for the family's experiences, even when those events are challenged.

( )
  mitchtroutman | Jun 14, 2020 |
I didn't realize when I ordered this book that it was a nonfiction account but I enjoyed reading the story of two young albino men and their poor black mother. I opened my eyes to many of their thoughts and feelings and how bad it was to be a black before the civil rights movement. How brave their mother was! What seemed to be such a bad thing that happened actually turned into quite a blessing for both the boys and their mother. They had good jobs, when they were finally paid, and she was able to become a land owner at a time when very very few blacks were able to be. Very good interesting read! ( )
  LilQuebe | Sep 19, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Macy, Bethprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harms, LaurenCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Toren, SuzanneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I am the true vine, and My father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. -- John 15:1-2...
For the first time he sought to analyze the burden he bore upon his back, that dead-weight of social degradation partially masked behind a half-named Negro problem. He felt his poverty; without a cent, without a home, without land, tools, or savings, he had entered into competition with rich, landed, skilled neighbors. To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships. -- W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folks
Dedication
To Tom, for his big heart and humor, and for keeping my eyes fresh

And in memory of Georgy and Willie Muse
First words
Their world was so blindingly white that the brothers had to squint to keep from crying.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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History. Multi-Cultural. African American Nonfiction. Nonfiction. HTML: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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