If over a hundred years ago there had been Black Lives Matter, the mother of George and Willie Muse would have joined and marched for the safe return of her sons.” 

Nikki Giovanni, poet and one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Twenty-five Living Legends”


Beth Macy has a way of getting under the skin of American life, burrowing into the seemingly ordinary to find the weird and wonderful taproots of our society.”

Hampton Sides, author of In the Kingdom of Ice, Blood and Thunder, and Americana


Little, Brown and Company will publish TRUEVINE on Oct. 18, 2016

I was thrilled to see TRUEVINE chosen among “The 10 Galleys You Should Grab at BEA” for the 2016 Book Exposition of America in Chicago, where booksellers and book lovers  converged recently to check out this fall’s forthcoming books. Entertainment Weekly name-checked it among its “11 best things” list of fall books, and kudos for  warm shoutouts from Vulture and the BEA Show Daily

Writes Megan Labrise:

Award-winning investigative journalist Beth Macy made a splash with Factory Man, a New York Times bestseller and “masterly feat of reporting,” we wrote in a starred review. Comprised of hundreds of interviews and decades of research, her sophomore effort is sure to make waves: Truevine is the story of George and Willie Muse, two African-American albino brothers kidnapped from their Virginia town, circa 1900, by a white man who forced them to perform as an international circus act. Their mother, Harriett Muse, spent the next 28 years trying to bring them home. 

Franklin County, VA Tobacco Field

Franklin County tobacco field near Truevine, Va., not unlike the one from which the Muse brothers were kidnapped around the turn of the 20th Century, setting off a chain of events that would change their family’s destiny for generations.

The year was 1899, as the old people told the story; the place a sweltering Virginia tobacco community in the Jim Crow South, where everyone they knew was either a former slave, or a child or grandchild of slaves.

TRUEVINE is the story of George and Willie Muse, two African American brothers who were kidnapped from a tobacco field and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother embarked on an epic, decades-long struggle to get them back — and to get justice for her family.

The result of hundreds of interviews and a quarter-century of research, TRUEVINE is a journalistic triumph. Though the Muse brothers’ narrative has been passed down for over a century, no writer has ever gotten this close to the beating heart of their story, and its mysteries: Were they really kidnapped? How did their mother, a black maid toiling under the harsh restrictions of segregation, bring them home? And why, after getting there, would they ever want to go back?

At the height of their fame, the Muse brothers performed for British royalty and headlined over a dozen sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden. They were fine musicians and global superstars in a pre-broadcast era. But the very root of their success hinged on the color of their skin and in the outrageous caricatures they were forced to assume: supposed cannibals, sheep-headed freaks, even “Ambassadors from Mars.”

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Family reunion, 1927, photo by George Davis


Beth Macy is a master chronicler of life in the South, and her exclusive interviews and sources make for a riveting American story about race, greed, and the human condition. The full story of what happened in Truevine, Virginia is unforgettable, a book that will shock readers even as it warms their hearts.


Copy of Clarke RBBB Ambassadors from Mars banner001

Photo courtesy of Milner Library Special Collections, Illinois State University

It’s the best story in town,’ a colleague told Beth Macy decades ago, ‘but no one has been able to get it.’  She now has, with tenacity and sensitivity. She gives a singular sideshow its due, offering these ‘Ambassadors from Mars’ a remarkable, deeply affecting afterlife.”

Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer-winning author of The Witches

Pre-order Truevine online now

Copy of congress of freaks

Photo courtesy of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Tibbals Collection

This compelling account of one family’s tragic exploitation provides an important lens through which America’s tortured racial history and the cruel legacy of Jim Crow can be seen anew.”

Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and founder and director of the Equal Justice Initiative

Copy of Are Men From Mars EI

Photo courtesy of Circus World Museum

Taking us into the dark corners of American history that are discussed only in whispers, Beth Macy shines a bright light on the racial profiteering of circus freak shows and the Jim Crow South. In the remarkable Truevine, Macy manages to do what all the exploitative showmen wouldn’t dare; she humanizes the Muse brothers, and in doing so, she has written an unforgettable story of both heartbreak and enduring love.

Gilbert King, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book, Devil in the Grove


  • Truevine
  • Truevine to publish Oct. 18, 2016

  • Tom Hanks on “Factory Man”:

    Factory Man is “Great summer reading. I give it 42 stars. No, I give it 142 stars. Yeah, it’s THAT good.”
  • Follow Beth on Facebook

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  • The New York Times on “Factory Man”:

    This is Ms. Macy’s first book, but it’s in a class with other runaway debuts like Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” and Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”: These nonfiction narratives are more stirring and dramatic than most novels. And Ms. Macy writes so vigorously that she hooks you instantly. You won’t be putting this book down. — Janet Maslin

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