SOCIAL SCIENCES

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

Little, Brown. Oct. 2016. 432p. ISBN 9780316337540. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316337564. HIST
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Two years after the debut of FX's TV series American Horror Story: Freak Show comes a true story that situates so-called circus "curiosities" firmly in U.S. history. In the rural hamlet of Truevine, VA, circa 1899, a circus agent gathered up two boys—brothers who happened to be both African American and albino. For decades, George and Willie Muse performed with various carnival freak shows around the country. Objectification of these individuals typified an era in which lynchings were rampant, Southern blacks were trapped in poverty and illiteracy, and disabilities and deformities were treated as opportunities for commodification and entertainment. Conversely, Macy (Factory Man) points out that carnivals offered a haven for marginalized members of society, including LGBTQ people, and that though the Muse brothers' mother later claimed the boys had been abducted, she may have handed them over to the white circus manager to try to give her children a better life.
VERDICT 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. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/16.]

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