Rivas, Mim Eichler
RIVAS, Mim Eichler
PERSONAL: Born in Oak Ridge, TN; married Victor Rivas (an actor and author); children: Eli. Education: Sarah Lawrence College, graduated.
CAREER: Writer and ghostwriter. Member of board of directors for National Network to End Domestic Violence Fund.
(With Jacqueline Stallone, under name Mim Eichler) Starpower: An Astrological Guide to Supersuccess, New American Library (New York, NY), 1989.
(With Bob Kosberg, under name Mim Eichler) How to Sell Your Idea to Hollywood, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
(With Antwone Quenton Fisher) Finding Fish: A Memoir, Morrow (New York, NY), 2001.
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World, Morrow (New York, NY), 2005.
Author's works have been adapted to audio cassette.
SIDELIGHTS: Author and ghostwriter Mim Eichler Rivas has written or collaborated on more than a dozen nonfiction books, primarily autobiographical works by celebrities. She and her husband, Victor Rivas, are also activists with the National Network to End Domestic Violence, an organization dedicated to stopping violence against women.
In Finding Fish: A Memoir Eichler and the book's subject, Antwone Quenton Fisher, recount Fisher's turbulent, abusive childhood. Born in prison to an inmate who was a single mother, Fisher spent his early years in institutions and foster homes, practically from birth. At the lowest point in his life, Fisher made the decision to join the U.S. Navy, a step that allowed him to transform himself into a proud and successful military man. After leaving the Navy, the memoir recounts how Fisher returned to his native Cleveland, reunited with his family, and sold a screenplay about his life. Fisher then went on to become one of the most successful African-American screenwriters to date.
Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World tells the story of a horse who became a prominent celebrity at the turn of the twentieth century. Beautiful Jim Key displayed amazing, almost human intellectual abilities. Using his teeth, the horse could pull out designated objects from racks without error. He could apparently add and subtract. He could spell simple words, cite Biblical passages, and sort mail. He was able to pull silver dollars from the bottom of a barrel without drinking any of the water. For almost fifteen years, from 1897 to 1912, Beautiful Jim Key appeared at World's Fairs, agricultural exhibitions, state fairs, and even on the Broadway stage, astounding eager spectators with his abilities. Skeptics suspected trickery or that the horse responded to some sort of subtle cue from his trainer, but the animal could repeat his feats even when his trainer was out of the room. "Countless reporters tried to debunk the horse's extraordinary talents, but none succeeded," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Eventually, even the most die-hard skeptic had to admit that Jim's talents seemed genuine, and that there was no evidence of fraud or subterfuge.
Intricately involved in the story is Jim's owner and trainer, Dr. William Key, who was born into slavery but taught himself to be a veterinarian. A successful businessman, Key expected his cross-breeding of a pair of outstanding horses, an Arabian and Hambletonian, would result in a strong foal, a future trotting race winner. Instead, Beautiful Jim was a lame and sickly colt. When the mare died, Key realized the horse's astonishing intelligence and taught Jim arithmetic and the alphabet. Part of Key's reason for touring with Jim was to raise awareness of animal cruelty in the United States and to advocate for humane treatment of animals at every level. His early efforts helped open the way for the animal rights movement later in the century.
"Showing affection for her protagonists, Rivas brings to life a lost slice of Americana," commented reviewer Felicia Paik in People. "Rivas' engaging story is filled with eyebrow-raising details," noted Entertainment Weekly contributor Cynthia Grisolia, citing the fact that future theme park and entertainment giant Walt Disney saw Beautiful Jim Key at the 1904 World's Fair. Beautiful Jim Key "remains valuable for its well-researched, little-known history of middle Tennessee," remarked Library Journal contributor Patsy Gray. Rivas's work "conjures up convincing scenes of a world gone by," the Kirkus Reviews critic stated.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Entertainment Weekly, February 11, 2005, Cynthia Grisolia, review of Beautiful Jim Key: The Lost History of a Horse and a Man Who Changed the World, p. 68.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Beautiful Jim Key, p. 42.
Library Journal, January 1, 2005, Patsy Gray, review of Beautiful Jim Key, p. 138.
Los Angeles Times, April 30, 2005, review of Beautiful Jim Key, p. 42.
People, February 28, 2005, Felicia Paik, review of Beautiful Jim Key, p. 60.
Publishers Weekly, January 10, 2005, review of Beautiful Jim Key, p. 48.
Beautiful Jim Key Web site, http://www.beautifuljimkey.com/ (May 23, 2005), "Mim Eichler Rivas."
Lifetime, http://www.lifetimetv.com/ (May 23, 2005), "Mim Eichler Rivas."