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Cotton by Christopher Wilson

Cotton (2005)

by Christopher Wilson

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AUTHOR: WILSON, Christopher
TITLE: Cotton
DATE READ: 07/26/2014
RATING: 4.5/B+
GENRE/PUB DATE/PUBLISHER/# OF PGS Fiction;/2005/Harcourt Books/314 pgs
TIME/PLACE: 1949-1980's
CHARACTERS: Lee Cotton McCoy
FIRST LINES: " When I finally slither out mewling, I've already given Mama hard labor, because she's bneen cussing & screaming seventeen hours."
COMMENTS: Lee is born to a young black woman in a small town in Mississippi in the year 1949 from a liaison she had in New Orleans w/a Nordic sailor. Lee was born w/ white skin & white hair and no one quite knew how to classify him. And this goes on throughout the book as Lee has many transitions from black to white, man to woman … and all in all we come to understand the essence of the person is really not defined by any labels. I enjoyed the writing style of this book and would look for another book by this author. The story was very interesting … you just never knew what the next change/chapter in Lee's life was going to be. ( )
  pammykn | Sep 4, 2014 |
SLJ Reviews 2006 February
Website: http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com

Adult/High School -Before he is 30, Lee Cotton experiences life as a black boy, a white man, a white woman, and a black woman. The son of a black woman and a white Icelandic sailor, he was born in 1950 in Eureka, MS. White skin and blond hair notwithstanding, he was raised to know his place in the world. When he has a relationship with the daughter of a local bigot at age 15, he is beaten up by the Ku Klux Klan and left for dead. The staff at the St. Louis hospital to which he is transferred knows him only as a brain-damaged John Doe, and he gets his first taste of life as a white person. His memory returns just in time to be drafted for the Vietnam War. A car accident and misplaced whiskey bottle result in a sex-change operation by a disbarred physician, and, after several years as a white woman, his genes catch up with him and his skin slowly darkens. Farfetched though the plot may be, Wilson writes with an easy grace and humor that make Lee a thoroughly delightful protagonist. The author paints such a compelling picture of the South in the mid-20th century that it is hard to believe that he is British. In introducing Lee, he does far more than spin an irresistible tragicomedy that combines history with flights of fancy-he challenges us to look at what truly defines us if it is not our race, gender, or socioeconomic status.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
( )
  KimJD | Apr 8, 2013 |
In which a wonderful child is born white to a black mother, gifted with clairvoyance, and cast adrift into a world where he wanders about making wise and folksy observations about the human condition. The first half of this novel is a pearl of great price, with its Huck Finn-meets-Candide succession of brilliant little twistings of everyday situations and extraordinary events. Alas and alack, after that midpoint a plot twist led the book into some territory which this reviewer felt was substantially less fecund, as well as bringing plot more to the forefront, and it was easier to hear a few gears grinding. ( )
  Big_Bang_Gorilla | Oct 24, 2012 |
The story of Lee Cotton. He (she) was born son of a black woman and a white man in small town Jim Crow Mississippi. As a white kid with black blood he faces discrimination from all sides. The book has a similar feel to Forrest Gump the movie. The main character is a half-wit who somehow makes it through some incredibly bad breaks and retains his innocence without feeling bitter. There is even a similar love interest weaving its way through the story. The last 10-20% of the book was pretty anticlimactic. ( )
  FredB | Oct 28, 2011 |
Funny, touches of brilliance, well written, earthy, and occasional times when you'll have to suspend your disbelief. half way through and not sure where going - but definitely a ride. OK, finished now and phew - reminded me of Greek myth of Teiresias and seeing both sides of the fence in order to truly understand - the 'walk a mile in my shoes' sort of thing (which may explain the shoe prints on the cover of my copy). The ending was sort of eye-rolling but to be expected from a ballad. Like a celtic 'song' to mythologise an extra-ordinary life. ( )
  inkyshines | May 27, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156030454, Paperback)

In 1950, a black boy is born in segregated Eureka, Mississippi. Nothing startling there, except that he is born with white skin and blonde hair. His mother is properly black and his father, long gone, is an Icelander. This boy's name is Lee Cotton. In the course of the next 20-odd years, he will have a series of adventures that defy reason, beggar the imagination and stagger belief. And, that's a little like the way author Christopher Wilson writes. His style is irresistible because it is sly, sardonic and flat-out hilarious.

The first important person in Lee's life is his grandmother, Celeste, who arrives annually from "N'awlins" bearing gifts and words of wisdom. "She's sixty-something, going on eighty. Spiritual possession, liquor, tobacco smoking, and sniffing powders has taken its toll, rasped her voice, sucked out her flesh, and taxed her skin." Celeste convinces Lee that Voudou and Baptism--"that down-on-your-knees-know-your-place-slave-church" that his mother belongs to--are just "a hog's whisker apart." Both Lee and Celeste hear voices, the living and the dead, which sometimes comes in handy; for instance, when predicting game scores and winning horses.

Lee falls in love with the daughter of a stereotypical southern racist and nearly gets the life kicked out of him for it. He is thrown on a freight train, mostly dead, and fetches up in St. Louis where he is eventually taken into a psych-ops part of the Army and meets a rich panoply of people as weird as he is. He has some fun at the induction physical: "I got to backtrack about growing up as an Iceland colored, with double-recessive white genes, because my mambo grandmother was only part black, while my daddy was pure Scandinavian blond." Life hands Lee another big surprise after which he is not only a white black person, but something even more startling. About that, Lee says: "Well, I can deal with change. I can wander beyond my comfort zones. I been black, and I been white. I been alive and dead, rich and poor, clever and stupid, entire and broke, one-brained and two-brained (courtesy of the Army), lost and found. But, for sure, there's a limit to how much you can handle..."

There are juicy aphorisms on every page of Cotton, but the book is never preachy, despite covering 25 years of race and gender strife in these United States. The ending is a little too pat, but the rest of the book is such fun to read, Wilson can be forgiven. Wilson's first novel was Mischief in which Charlie discovers that he was an abandoned baby, the last of the Xique Xiques of Brazil and that he has alien qualities that he must hide in order to get along in human society. Clearly, this author has a big imagination. --Valerie Ryan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:32 -0400)

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'It's almost a year since fifteen-year-old Matt and his younger brother, Tom, rowed out to the island. Matt, confined to a wheelchair and haunted by nightmares, can't remember what happened. Nor does he want to." --COVER.

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