The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman

The first modern biography of Olive Oatman, a white captive who was raised by Mohave Indians in the 1850s, The Blue Tattoo  was a finalist for the 2010 Caroline Bancroft History Prize and listed among The Best of the Best from the University Presses (2010 American Library Association Annual Conference). It was a 2009 book of the year pick by over a dozen newspapers nationally.

“Margot Mifflin has written a winner… The Blue Tattoo offers quite intense drama along with thorough scholarship.”
–-Elmore Leonard

“An important and engrossing book, which reveals as much about the appetites and formulas of emerging mass culture as it does about tribal cultures in nineteenth-century America.”
Times Literary Supplementblue-tattoo

“Well-researched history that reads like unbelievable fiction.”
—Bust Magazine

“An easy, flowing read, one you won’t be able to put down.”
–The Christian Science Monitor


2016 “Great Books on Women’s History” selection (UT Austin).

2014 One Book Yuma selection.

2010 Finalist: The Caroline Bancroft Prize (best 2009 book on the history of the trans-Mississippi west).

The Best of the Best from the University Presses (2010 American Library Association Annual Conference).

A 2009 Book of the Year: The Kansas City Star, The Anchorage Daily News, The Idaho Statesman, The Sacramento Bee, The (Tacoma WA) News Tribune, The State (SC), The Olympian (WA), The Victoria Advocate (TX), The (PA) Centre Daily Times, The Enquirer Herald (SC), The Modesto Bee (CA), The Tri-City Herald (WA) The Lake Wylie (SC) Pilot, The News and Observer (NC), and Pop Matters.

A 2009 Southwest Book of the Year.

The Blue Tattoo in the News:

Author interview, Top of Mind with Julie Rose, BYU Radio (Utah), Jan. 15, 2016.

Author interview, Radio West with Doug Fabrizio, KUER Radio, Dec. 16, 2015.

Author Interview, Newstalk FM (Ireland), Dec. 15, 2015.

“Reader Recommendation,”The Christian Science Monitor, April 15, 2014.

“Beyond the Tattoo: Author Margot Mifflin to Visit Area for One Book Yuma events,” Yuma Sun, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2013.

Blue Tattoo The 2014 One Book Yuma Club Selection,” by Mara Naub, Yuma Sun, Dec. 19, 2013.

“An English Professor Explores the Meaning of a 19th Century Chin Tattoo,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 15, 2012.

(review) Bitch Magazine, December 2011.

Hercircle Ezine, October 1, 2011.

(review) The Journal of Arizona History, Autumn 2010. “The Blue Tattoo is an excellent teaching tool, general enough for assigned reading in an American History survey course, yet with enough depth and details for seminars in frontier history, gender studies, or American Indian Studies. An excellent read for anyone with a healthy imagination and a yen for an engaging story.”

(review) Big Muddy: A Journal of the Misissippi River Valley, September, 2010.

(review) Western Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2010, Vol. 31, issue 3, pp. 377-378. Western Historical Quartlery ContentServer

(review) American History, in “We Also Like,” August 2010.

(review) Lake Oswego Review, July 8, 2010.

(review) Overland Journal, Spring 2010. “We recommend The Blue Tattoo to students, specialists and general readers of the history of the Southwest.”

(review) Journal of American History, Vol. 96, No. 4, March 2010.

(review) Pacific Historical Review, May 2010 (review by June Namias). “Margot Mifflin is a great storyteller…The Blue Tattoo is well written and well researched; it re-opens the story of white women and men going West and Native people trying to survive these travels.” Pacific Historical Review

(review)  Ralph Magazine, mid-spring 2010.  “It seems the author–and now your reviewer–are in love with the Mohaves.”

(review) Women’s Review of Books, Jan-Feb. 2010.

(review) Lansing State Journal, January 12, 2010.

“Pima County Public Library Panel Selects the Top Reads of 2009” Arizona Daily Star, December 20, 2009.

(review) Western American Literature, Dec. 3, 2009. “Mifflin’s treatment of Olive’s sojourns [provides] an excellent teaching opportunity about America’s ongoing captivation with ethnic/gender crossings…” Western American Lit pdf

(review) Doubleday Book Club, November, 2009. “Mifflin catches the poignancy of this story that manages to combine the conquest of the West, life among its victims and the national myths that justified it.”

(review) Feminist Review, November 7, 2009. “Although Oatman’s story on its own is full of intrigue, Mifflin adeptly uses her tale as a springboard for larger issues of the time.”

(review) Powell’s Books Review a Day, Oct. 19 2009.

(review) Rain Taxi, Fall 2009, [An] admirable and enjoyable book [that] offers analysis of both the reality and the mythology of Oatman’s life…”

(review) Internet Review of Books, October 15, 2009. “The Blue Tattoo is a wonderful peek at an era and a literary genre by a first-class researcher. ”

(review) Tucson Weekly, September 13, 2009. ” “In The Blue Tattoo, Margot Mifflin slices away the decades of mythology and puts the story in its proper historical context. What emerges is a riveting, well-researched portrait of a young woman—a survivor, but someone marked for life by the experience.”

“Tattoed Girl Stepped Into Yuma History” The Yuma Sun, September 9, 2009.

(interview) The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, August 20, 2009. Listen here.

(review) Historical Novel Society, August 2009; #49.

(review) Irish, August 13, 2009. “One can read this work of non-fiction as if it were a sensational novel – with progressive feminist implications.”

(review) New West, August 10, 2009. “As Margot Mifflin demonstrates in her absorbing book, The Blue Tattoo, the truth about Olive Oatman is more complicated than the many fictions about her.”

(review) Tattoo History, August 10, 2009. “The book’s already received rave reviews, and for good reason….a fascinating dose of both tattoo and American history.”

(review) The Kansas City Star, August 9, 2009.

(review) The Times Literary Supplement, July 10, 2009.

(review) The Stereopticon, July 2009.

“The Blue Tattoo: The Story of Olive Oatman,” I Tunes U, podcast posted June 26, 2009.

(review) Bismarck Tribune, June 16, 2009. “…a thoughtful presentation of a legendary woman in western history.”

Bookshelf, Lehman Today, spring 2009.

(review) , May/June 2009. ForeWord “…Mifflin skillfully de-mythologizes the case of Olive Oatman.”

(review) Ehistory at Ohio State University, June 2009. “Mifflin’s dynamic pacing and energetic writing are a brilliant match for a story filled with dynamic personalities and their transitions.”

(review) Bust June/July 2009. “….well researched history that reads like unbelievable fiction.”

(review) Library Journal, April 1, 2009.  “…Mifflin engagingly describes Oatman’s ordeal and theorizes about its impact on Oatman herself as well as on popular imagination… her book adds nuance to Oatman’s story and also humanizes the Mohave who adopted her.  Recommended for general readers as well as students and scholars.”

“Professor Margot Mifflin Writes Biography of 19th Century Pioneer Olive Oatman,” CUNY Newswire, April 1, 2009.

(review), May 12, 2009. “This is a revealing read as it delves into the social mores and prejudice of the time.”

“South Nyack Author Tells Tale of Unconventional Heroine in New Book,” The Rockland Journal News, March 29, 2009.