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

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

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