Truevine - the extraordinary story of the Muse brothers

17 October 2016

By Pan Macmillan

Your children are stolen.
And displayed as circus freaks.
You're poor, black and cannot read.
What do you do?
This is where Beth Macy's Truevine begins, what follows is one of the most extraordinary true stories ever told. 

The year was 1899; the place a sweltering tobacco farm in Truevine, Virginia, the heart of the Jim Crow South, where everyone they knew was either a former slave, or a child or grandchild of slaves. 

The Muse brothers, George and Willie, 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?

At the height of their fame, 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 colour of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even 'Ambassadors from Mars'.

The result of hundreds of interviews and decades of research, Truevine is an unforgettable story of cruelty and exploitation, but also of loyalty, determination and love.

With echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird,  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and of Tod Browning's 1935 classic movie Freaks, Truevine tells - for the first time - the extraordinary story of what really happened to the Muse brothers. 
'Sometimes a book comes along that you immediately know is very special within seconds of receiving the submission.  Beth Macy's Truevine is one of them.' - Georgina Morley, Editorial Director

Truevine: A True Story of the American South will be published in the UK March 2017. 

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