Beth Macy

22 February 2018
432 pages


In Truevine, Virginia, in 1899 everyone the Muse brothers knew was either a former slave, or a child or grandchild of slaves.

George and Willie Muse were just six and nine years old, but they worked the fields from dawn to dark. Until a white man offered them candy and stole them away to become circus freaks. For the next twenty-eight years, their distraught mother struggled to get them back. But were they really kidnapped? And how did their mother, a barely literate black woman in the segregated South, manage to bring them home? And why, after coming home, would they want to go back to the circus?

In Truevine, bestselling author Beth Macy reveals for the first time what really happened to the Muse brothers. It is an unforgettable story of cruelty and exploitation, but also of loyalty, determination and love.

What makes her account compelling, however, is the history it offers of the lives black people had to endure in the decades following slavery, a history that seems all the more poignant in the aftermath of last year’s Black Lives Matter debates … [An] extraordinary tale of courage and grace John Burnside, Spectator
Pitiless about life in the Jim Crow South where, even in the 1920s, thousands of black Americans, some for crimes as trivial as hopping a train, were sold into labour camps and sent down slave mines … It is quite some story, and Macy has told it skilfully, vividly, compassionately