Wilson's winning 20th-century picaresque wanders from the Deep South to the Midwest and on to San Francisco, following its protagonist through multiple and surprising identities. From his Icelandic father Lee Cotton gets his marble skin and blue eyes. From his mixed-race mother he gains his black identity. From his Mambo grandmother he inherits forebodings about his future. It's a combination that sets Lee apart from the other black kids growing up in Eureka, Mississippi. It marks Lee out as slightly odd. And very white. If childhood was confusing, adolescence proves life changing when Lee falls in love with the sublime Angelina. It's also life threatening: Angel's father is a freelance shooter for the Klan, who doesn't take kindly to his daughter's boyfriend. An act of appalling violence leaves Lee far from home with a new identity, a draft card, a memory that operates in flashback and a mental illness that makes him a sort of genius. He also has a reputation, back home, for being dead. Nobody (except possibly his grandmother) could envisage that Lee's rebirth is a headstart and not a handicap. His role in a quite remarkable journey through life will be to transform others as he has transformed himself…
The Ballad of Lee Cotton
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