‘TRUEVINE’ By Beth Macy

28962954-_uy400_ss400_October 18 was the publication day for TRUEVINE: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South (Little, Brown and Company), which is the second book by New York Times-bestselling author Beth Macy of Roanoke.

Anyone who lives in southwest Virginia and has been even a casual reader of The Roanoke Times through the years is surely familiar with Beth’s exceptional work as a journalist and storyteller who, as her biography says, gives voice to outsiders and underdogs.

Two years ago she made her authorial debut with FACTORY MAN, which was a sensation. I expect a similar reception for TRUEVINE, “the true story of two African-American brothers who were kidnapped and displayed as circus freaks, and whose mother endured a 28-year struggle to get them back,” says the publisher.

“It’s a story about race, greed and the circus,” writes Beth at her website, “and I’ve been chasing it for more than 25 years. I’m thrilled to say it was just short-listed for a Kirkus Prize in nonfiction, and long-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence, a project of the American Library Association.”

I’m not surprised one bit. Based on what I’ve seen, no one chases, researches and writes a true story quite like Beth Macy.

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Celebrating ‘Factory Man’ By Beth Macy

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Buy at Barnes & Noble.

It’s July 15, publication day for FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local – and Helped Save an American Town by Beth Macy, an award-winning journalist and former reporter for the Roanoke Times. Anyone who lives in my region and has been even a casual reader of the Roanoke Times through the years is surely familiar with Macy’s excellent work as a reporter and storyteller who, as her bio says, gives voice to outsiders and underdogs.

That’s certainly the case in her authorial debut. FACTORY MAN is the story of John Bassett III and his quest to save his furniture company, his employees (and their jobs) and his town (Galax, Virginia) against the fierce Asian competition that was decimating a once-strong and proud American industry.

This factory man is a gritty, determined David against a cunning, overseas Goliath. Unfair or not, Bassett chose to fight.

By intricately telling us about wooden furniture, hard-working men and women, a fiercely stubborn company owner and a small Virginia town, Macy, through FACTORY MAN, has delivered a large American story. There’s much more to the Bassett tale, including a family feud. I can’t do it justice.

What I can tell you is that outstanding reviews have been spilling out of the literary world like finely crafted cabinets rolling off the Bassett assembly line.

The New York Times’ Janet Maslin compares Macy’s debut to Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit. Publisher Weekly and Kirkus offered starred reviews. Jonathan Alter wrote, “Beth Macy has done a masterful job in personalizing the biggest American economic story of our time….”

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Beth Macy.

An admirer of her work from afar, I’ve had the pleasure of getting acquainted with Beth Macy the last few years as our paths have crossed at writing events.

Last Saturday at the Radford Reads Literary Festival, she lamented a missed anecdote that she would have weaved into FACTORY MAN. Despite countless interviews, she couldn’t have known about these particular details because they didn’t surface until well after her copious research and writing were complete.

Nonetheless, it bothered this reporter who, I’m guessing, is every bit as tenacious about telling human stories as John Bassett III is about making quality furniture. FACTORY MAN is a finely constructed and polished American story you don’t want to miss.

Beth Macy on ‘Story Beacons’ and More

At the recent Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, Beth Macy’s topic was “From Article to Book.”

Factory-Man-202x300Beth Macy is an author and a feature writer for the Roanoke Times. Her first book, FACTORY MAN: How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local—and Helped Save an American Town, is due out from Little, Brown and Company in July.

That American town is Galax. The factory man is John Bassett III. The book was spawned from “Picking Up the Pieces,” a Roanoke Times series that included Beth’s reporting on Bassett, a maverick who bucked the wave of Asian imports in the furniture industry.

In Babcock Auditorium at Hollins University, Beth explained why she decided to turn a 5,000-word article into a 120,000-word book. But first she provided the simple litmus test for any story:

“Does it move me? Do I want more?”

Beth talked about “story beacons,” those people who illuminate and guide a story.

Her first story beacon for FACTORY MAN was Bassett himself. Among other things, she learned there was a family feud. From a storytelling standpoint, it just kept getting better.

The story had contemporary relevance and multiple elements—a social history, a dying U.S. industry (dislocated workers, 20,000 lost jobs) and a compelling character with a fascinating supporting cast.

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Beth Macy.

A few more of Beth’s story beacons:

There was Wanda Perdue, a former furniture worker who said, “I wish you would go there [Asia] and tell me why we can’t make [furniture] here anymore.”

So Beth did go there.

There was also Pat, a lady who lived in the town of Bassett and knew everyone. Beth described her as someone who was like a soul of the book.

There was also Coy Young, the town barber, a beacon who had personal experience with virtually every important character.

“People want to tell their stories,” Beth said near the end of her talk.

Beth certainly knows from experience. People want to be heard, and they often want to talk to her, even though they know she is a reporter. She has a special talent as both a reporter and a writer.

I always enjoy hearing Beth speak. Now I eagerly await Beth’s FACTORY MAN.