Conjoined twins have long been a subject of fantasy, fascination, and freak shows. In this first collection of its kind, Millie-Christine McKoy, African American twins born in 1851, and Daisy and Violet Hilton, English twins born in 1908, speak for themselves through memoirs that help us understand what it is like to live physically joined to someone else.
Conjoined Twins in Black and White provides contemporary readers with the twins' autobiographies, the first two "show histories" to be republished since their original appearance, a previously unpublished novella, and a nineteenth-century medical examination, each of which attempts to define these women and reveal the issues of race, gender, and the body prompted by the twins themselves. The McKoys, born slaves, were kidnapped and taken to Britain, where they worked as entertainers until they were reunited with their mother in an emotional chance encounter. The Hiltons, cast away by their horrified mother at birth, worked the carnival circuit as vaudeville performers until the WWII economy forced them to the burlesque stage. The hardships, along with the triumphs, experienced by these very different sister sets lend insight into our fascination with conjoined twins.
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Linda Frost (Editor)
Linda Frost is associate professor of English and director of the Honors Program at Eastern Kentucky University. She is author of Never One Nation: Freaks, Savages, and Whiteness in U.S. Popular Culture, 1850–1877.