I have a new book on my ever-growing Want to Read list. Stories about people who overcome obstacles in their lives are interesting to me, not just the bounty of fiction I tend to consume. This book stands out, though, because Millie-Christine was a set of conjoined twins born into slavery.
Millie-Christine was born into slavery on a plantation in Columbus County, North Carolina, in 1851. She died on that same plantation sixty-one years later–only by then, she owned the land.
The above is an excerpt of a book discussion review at John F. Blair publishing’s reading group guide. The book is Millie-Christine: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and it’s the story of Milly-Christine, conjoined twins who referred to themselves as one person.
I learned of Millie-Christine last night after seeing a teaser for Oprah. The snippet showed a baby who was born with two heads. This amazed me, and I began an evening of searching the web for more information about her and other conjoined twins. The birth defect with which that baby was born is known as craniopagus parasiticus. In this baby’s case, her twin was still joined at the head, and that twin did not fully develop. On February 19, she underwent surgery to have the parasitic twin removed, and a second operation was performed a short time later to relieve swelling. I look forward to seeing Oprah’s show to learn more. How amazing that babies like these survive, let alone can undergo such surgeries. Some, like Rebeca Martinez from the Dominican Republic, do not make it. But maybe this little Egyptian miracle, Manar Maged, will pull through.
In my reading last night, I was especially fascinated by this website, Phreeque.com, which has photos and biographical information for various people dubbed “human anomolies”. Don’t let the site’s name fool you — it’s well documented and not mean spirited.
I have to warn you, it’s hurtful to read about how so many of these people were abused and taken advantage of by their guardians, and how they were subjected to repeated invasive medical exams, put on display, etc. The fact that many went on to marry, some having children, and live normal lives is really cool. And, truthfully, so many of these folks wouldn’t have stood out from the crowd all that much had they been born a century or so later. It’s a shame that they went through what they did.
Reading the biographical snippets at Ratt’s site made me want to learn more about what life was really like for these folks, and what they were like on the inside. Isn’t that what truly counts, anyway? That’s why Millie-Christine’s story is one I really want to read.
Update 7/16/2006: I found more information on craniopagus parasiticus, including a photo gallery and more information on the Oprah episode. There was a child known as the Two Headed Boy of Bengal, born in 1783. That latter link looks like an interesting blog for people who like to read unusual stories.