Beth Macy

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Beth Macy

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Member Since
March 2012


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Beth Macy Deadlines help! Seriously, a story has to move me for me to dig into it. Then teasing out the facts, unraveling one thread at a time, becomes this…moreDeadlines help! Seriously, a story has to move me for me to dig into it. Then teasing out the facts, unraveling one thread at a time, becomes this great search. In "Truevine," the most astonishing things didn’t revolve around the sideshow spectacle but rather around what ordinary African-Americans faced during Jim Crow. The daily cruelties didn’t seem to shift so much between the end of slavery and civil rights. To bring those truths to light, I had to piece together so many disparate threads, driving octogenarians and nonagenarians and even centenarians around the old neighborhoods, sifting through old property deeds and maps, and reading oral histories. Archival research only took me so far; to really put meat on the bones of the story, I had to go out and really talk to people on the ground. And that, to me, is inspiring. Reporting is such fun, though -- there are still days I can't believe I get paid to do it!
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Beth Macy That’s hard to answer because there’s almost no time in my career when I haven’t been thinking about the story that resulted in "Truevine." Like…moreThat’s hard to answer because there’s almost no time in my career when I haven’t been thinking about the story that resulted in "Truevine." Like others who’d asked before me to do the story, I’m sure I was initially attracted to the great yarn that it was. But once I really got to know the brothers' caregiver and great-niece, Nancy Saunders, and understood deeply what she’d gone through to protect her uncles — a process that took a couple decades — I saw the Muse brothers’ story not as a great yarn but also as a way to reflect society at large. Were the brothers better off, ultimately, traveling in the circus than they would have been at home in Jim Crow Virginia? That question led me to explore sharecropping and life during segregation; all the untold micro-aggressions black Virginians faced, including the Muse family, as well as how the general circus-going public, whose fascination with sideshows said more about the audiences, truly, than the freaks.

There were a lot of layers of meaning and universality tucked within this one outlier story. The longer I worked on it, the more interesting and multi-layered it became to me. This book could not have been written by an outsider; it could not have been produced in a hurry. It had to be pieced at by a local, on a slow simmer. I’m not generally the world’s most patient person, but this one was worth the wait.


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Average rating: 3.64 · 4,171 ratings · 827 reviews · 4 distinct worksSimilar authors
Truevine: Two Brothers, a K...

3.46 avg rating — 2,271 ratings — published 2016 — 18 editions
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Factory Man: How One Furnit...

3.83 avg rating — 1,869 ratings — published 2014
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Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors,...

4.65 avg rating — 31 ratings — expected publication 2018 — 8 editions
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Dopesick Dopesick: Dealers,...

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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Below is an essay I first published for The Ochberg Society, a now-defunct grassroots group of journalists who cover trauma, upon the publication of FACTORY MAN in 2014. I’ve been thinking a lot about the people featured in my essay and in that book recently. On Election Day, I traveled back to Bassett, Va., to talk about my just-out book, TRUEVINE, a nonfiction narrative about...

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Published on November 14, 2016 08:15 • 86 views

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Dopesick by Beth Macy
Dopesick by Beth Macy
"If you want to know the backstory of America's opioid epidemic, look no further than Beth Macy's meticulously researched book. The personal vignettes bring a face to the stories we read about in the paper. I know many people will compare it to Hil..." Read more of this review »
Dopesick by Beth Macy
"A fascinating look into the history and reality of the opioid epidemic. Macy did her research and compassionately tells the story of those touched and living in the throes of the epidemic."
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White Trash by Nancy Isenberg
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Truevine by Beth Macy
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What Stands in a Storm by Kim Cross
More of Beth's books…
“He was as serious as a copperhead in a wood stack. His”
Beth Macy, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South

“During the time the Muse brothers began performing, Nicholas pointed out, adults could legally mail children - by affixing stamps to their shirts and putting them on a train.”
Beth Macy, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South

“This is nothing like contracting with a carnival showman to put your two young teenagers on a train, granted, even if you thought he'd bring them back. But who is anyone to judge the pressures facing an illiterate washerwoman raising five children alone in rural Virginia during the harshest years of Jim Crow?”
Beth Macy, Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother's Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South

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