Christopher Wilson's "Cotton" (Harcourt, $14) tells the tale of Lee Cotton, a Black boy born White-skinned in segregated Eureka, Miss., in 1950.
Over the course of Lee's first 20 years, he will fall in love with the daughter of a local Klansman, get kicked senseless and left for dead on a freight train headed north, end up in St. Louis as a White man and be drafted into the Army's psych-ops corps in Nevada. There, a drunken accident will separate Lee from another part of his identity and change his fate yet again. Before he returns to Mississippi, he will experience up close and personal the women's liberation movement and the dawn of the Lesbian Nation.
Lee Cotton's voice — equal parts Delta blues and Motown — takes us on an exhilarating freedom ride through America's preoccupation with identity politics. His funny, forgiving charm ultimately embodies a serious message: The freaks and oddities of this world may well be divine.