New York Times best-selling author Beth Macy has just published a book twenty-five years in the making. On Monday, October 24th, Macy spoke at WVU’s Mountainlair about her new book, Truevine, and the challenges and joys of researching and telling this story.
Truevine is a non-fiction account of two albino African-American brothers who were kidnapped and sold to the circus in the Jim Crow South. Macy was able to forge a connection with their granddaughter, Nancy, gaining a toe-hold in the community that held the story of the Muse brothers. As she traveled around the Roanoke area, speaking to family and community members, she realized the challenge she faced of tracking a family history when that family was illiterate. This spurred her forward. She drove people she met around the neighborhood to jog their memories; she Googled for more information in the middle of the night; she hired analysts to dissect the few photos she had for additional clues to put the story together.
Slowly, the book emerged, and she began to realize the true themes revolved around Jim Crow and the indignities it placed on black Americans. It was also about this place, Truevine, VA. She read an excerpt that described the town, which ended with this line from a resident she interviewed: “Only in a place like Truevine could a kidnapping seem almost like an opportunity.”
Macy ended her presentation by sharing audio of Willie Muse, one of the brothers, singing. She did this, she said, in order to give him the last word in his own story.