Wednesday, October 29, 2014

TLC Book Tours Review: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island by Claire Prentice

Title: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island
Author: Claire Prentice
Format: Paperback
Publisher: New Harvest
Publish Date: October 14, 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island  is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream."

My Two Cents:

"The Lost Tribe of Coney Island" is a fascinating, non-fiction tale about Truman K. Hunt, a man who has designs on making a name for himself during the early 1900s. Hunt sees a great opportunity during his travels to the Philippines to bring back some of the natives and put them on display in an amusement park in Coney Island (seriously!). He promises these people a lot in order to get them to go with him. Once they get to the United States, all bets are off and Hunt realizes that he has a ton of power over them and exploits them. To modern day readers, the idea of a "human zoo" is grotesque but unfortunately during the time that this book takes place, the practice was all too prevalent in our country.

The author tracks the plight of these people with great detail, which made for a very engaging read. I found myself stunned by what the poor Filipinos had to go through. First, they get to Coney Island and are forced to build their own village display where they will live and essentially be trapped while they are there! The particular tribe that Hunt brought people from happened to have a couple habits that the amusement park tourists found fascinating such as head hunting and dog eating. Hunt made sure to cash in on these aspects even if it meant stretching the truth a little bit (not a nice guy at all).

The writing of the book was really good. It reminded me a lot of books such as Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City" and Charlene Mires' "Capital of the World," because like those two books, this book is thoroughly engaging non-fiction that often felt like fiction! I had to keep reading parts out loud to my husband just because some of the things that happen to the Filipinos were so unbelievable! Overall, I definitely enjoyed this book!



  1. I recently reviewed this one on my blog, and like you, found the exhibition of humans as entertainment a little off-putting! I can't say I liked this one quite as much as I liked Devil in the White City, but I did like it!

  2. These are the kind of non fiction books I really love - I can't wait to read it! Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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