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The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman (Women in the West)by Margot Mifflin
"Mifflin, whose admirable and enjoyable book offers analysis of both the reality and the mythology of Oatman's life, shows that there is much beyond The Blue Tattoo. Surely this volume will lead to many more studies on Oatman and related issues surrounding the allure of the exotic and the dangers and wonders of various cultural frontiers." Spencer Drew, Rain Taxi (read the entire Rain Taxi review)
Synopses & Reviews
Varina Anne and#8220;Winnieand#8221; Davis was born into a war-torn South in June of 1864, the youngest daughter of Confederate president Jefferson Davis and his second wife, Varina Howell Davis. Born only a month after the death of beloved Confederate hero general J.E.B. Stuart during a string of Confederate victories, Winnieand#8217;s birth was hailed as a blessing by war-weary Southerners. They felt her arrival was a good omen signifying future victory. But after the Confederacyand#8217;s ultimate defeat in the Civil War, Winnie would spend her early life as a genteel refugee and an expatriate abroad.and#160;
After returning to the South from German boarding school, Winnie was christened the and#8220;Daughter of the Confederacyand#8221; in 1886. This role was bestowed upon her by a Southern culture trying to sublimate its war losses. Particularly idolized by Confederate veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Winnie became an icon of the Lost Cause, eclipsing even her father Jefferson in popularity.and#160;
Winnie Davis:and#160; Daughter of the Lost Cause is the first published biography of this little-known woman who unwittingly became the symbolic female figure of the defeated South. Her controversial engagement in 1890 to a Northerner lawyer whose grandfather was a famous abolitionist, and her later move to work as a writer in New York City, shocked her friends, family, and the Southern groups who worshipped her. Faced with the pressures of a community who violently rejected the match, Winnie desperately attempted to reconcile her prominent Old South history with her personal desire for tolerance and acceptance of her personal choices.and#160;
The librarian walks the streets of her beloved Paris. An old lady with a limp and an accent, she is invisible to most. Certainly no one recognizes her as the warrior and revolutionary she was, when again and again she slipped into the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Vilnius to carry food, clothes, medicine, money, and counterfeit documents to its prisoners. Often she left with letters to deliver, manuscripts to hide, and even sedated children swathed in sacks. In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured for twelve days, and deported to Dachau.
Through Epistolophilia, Julija and#352;ukys follows the letters and journalsand#8212;the and#8220;life-writingand#8221;and#8212;of this woman, Ona and#352;imaitand#279; (1894and#8211;1970). A treasurer of words, and#352;imaitand#279; carefully collected, preserved, and archived the written record of her life, including thousands of letters, scores of diaries, articles, and press clippings. Journeying through these words, and#352;ukys negotiates with the ghost of and#352;imaitand#279;, beckoning back to life this quiet and worldly heroineand#8212;a giant of Holocaust history (one of Yad Vashemand#8217;s honored and#8220;Righteous Among the Nationsand#8221;) and yet so little known. The result is at once a mediated self-portrait and a measured perspective on a remarkable life. It reveals the meaning of life-writing, how women write their lives publicly and privately, and how their words attach themand#8212;and usand#8212;to life.
In 1851 Olive Oatman was a thirteen-year old pioneer traveling west toward Zion, with her Mormon family. Within a decade, she was a white Indian with a chin tattoo, caught between cultures. The Blue Tattoo tells the harrowing story of this forgotten heroine of frontier America. Orphaned when her family was brutally killed by Yavapai Indians, Oatman lived as a slave to her captors for a year before being traded to the Mohave, who tattooed her face and raised her as their own. She was fully assimilated and perfectly happy when, at nineteen, she was ransomed back to white society. She became an instant celebrity, but the price of fame was high and the pain of her ruptured childhood lasted a lifetime.
Based on historical records, including letters and diaries of Oatmanand#8217;s friends and relatives, The Blue Tattoo is the first book to examine her life from her childhood in Illinoisand#8212;including the massacre, her captivity, and her return to white societyand#8212;to her later years as a wealthy bankerand#8217;s wife in Texas.
Oatmanand#8217;s story has since become legend, inspiring artworks, fiction, film, radio plays, and even an episode of Death Valley Days starring Ronald Reagan. Its themes, from the perils of religious utopianism to the permeable border between civilization and savagery, are deeply rooted in the American psyche. Oatmanand#8217;s blue tattoo was a cultural symbol that evoked both the imprint of her Mohave past and the lingering scars of westward expansion. It also served as a reminder of her deepest secret, fully explored here for the first time: she never wanted to go home.
About the Author
Margot Mifflin is an author and journalist who writes about women, art, and contemporary culture. The author of Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo, she has written for many publications, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Entertainment Weekly, the Believer, and Salon.com. Mifflin is an assistant professor in the English Department of Lehman College of the City University of New York (CUNY) and directs the Arts and Culture program at CUNYand#8217;s Graduate School of Journalism, where she also teaches.and#160;
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