Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: The Blue Tattoo

By Sandy Amazeen May 12, 2009, 4:21 GMT

Book Review: The Blue Tattoo

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 ...more

Pursuing dreams of gold and God, thirteen year old Olive Oatman’s family was one of many making the dangerous trek to California when they were ambushed by Yavapai Indians in the Arizona desert. Olive survived a year in slavery to her Indian captors before being traded to the Mohave who treated her as one of their own, even giving her their distinctive facial tattoo. Life with the Mohave was good, Olive had been fully integrated into their society and as such, totally unprepared when she was ransomed back to the whites at nineteen. From that moment on, Olive’s life would to some extent, be dictated by her chin tattoo.

Olive’s life has been the subject of several books, plays and other interpretations including rip-offs by circus performers, yet none of them have captured the essence of this remarkable woman who in truth, was genuinely happy with her life among the Mohave. Fascinating and engrossing Mifflin’s account, while better then most, sadly falls short of the mark, as it tends to focus more on society’s reactions to Olive’s tattoo rather then on her amazing life. Still, this is a revealing read as it delves into the social morays and prejudice of the time.

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