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3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  539 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Forrest Gump has nothing on Lee Cotton, the charismatic protagonist of Wilson's second novel, whose exploits provide a humorous, clever, and provocative look at 20th-century America.

Mississippi, 1950. Lee is born a black baby with milky white skin, the result of a dalliance between his black mother and an Icelan
Paperback, 320 pages
Published October 2nd 2006 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2005)
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What a surprising(ly great) book this was - a book club choice that nobody had heard of before, and all of us agreed it was a gripping and highly entertaining read.

Five stars from me: one star for research, one star for use of language, one star for sheer originality, one star for making me laugh out loud, often in disbelief, and finally one star for making me care deeply for such an oddball protagonist.

I'm intrigued that (why) the US edition was, once again, released under a different title,
Wow, what a strange and intriguing ride. the writing is excellent. I got book out of the library, curious about its measure Q status, which marked the book as being lbgtq. How this story winds its improbable way into the gender bending category and beyond is inventive, improbable and a great story.
This is an interesting, almost outlandish book that explores the idea of identity - racial and gender identity, specifically - in some pretty unique ways, from the point of view of someone named Lee Cotton as they grow up and make their way through life. It was compelling because of the dramatic life-changing events that occur in the pages, but I found it wanting in the identity analysis department. It certainly explored these issues, but the way it did it was somewhat superficial and never real ...more
Rula Zein-Iddin
This is a very entertaining read. From the outset you think this will be a story that's been told before - incredibly its not. The author has actually created a very unique (in more ways than one) character with an authentic & charismatic personality. You really care about Lee. Lee's attitude to life & how he / she deals with it all are very inspirational. A very enjoyable & original book that rings true on so many levels - read it for a different perspective on life & hope in th ...more
Zara Hawthorne
This book is fabulously inventive, charming, very funny and absolutely extraordinary. The title I read this book under is "The ballad of Lee Cotton" and the story certainly has the richness and lyrical charm of a ballad. I loved the way the author repeatedly takes events to the brink of disbelief only to come up with a plausible explanation just in time. All the way through I was thinking "this is my new favorite book of all time". The ending didn't hold up to the lushness of the rest of the boo ...more
Although this is not compelling & suspenseful reading, it is a unique & interesting story. The author is highly educated & his much-appreciated writing skills, that readers seek out, are apparent on each page.

The story is written in the first person of Lee Cotton, a white-skinned boy born in 1950 to a southern black woman and an Icelandic sailor. His mother howls when she sees first him at birth, knowing he'll have trouble fitting into her black community. And the story confirms that
Quirky and very fun. Loved this book!

Brilliant writing. I 'm not sure if it's meant to be comedic because bad things certainly happen to our Lee, but I found myself laughing and delighting in his story nonetheless.

Here's a tiny taste from the first chapter, describing his hometown of Eureka, Mississippi:
"They didn't mind progress as long as things stayed the same."

Although this was from my postal book groupie Kats in Zurich, it is set in the south and is out of print in the USA. Why?!

In "Cotton" Christopher Wilson introduces us to the remarkable Leifur Nils Kristjansson Saint Marie du Cotton...he goes by Lee Cotton for short. Born to a mixed race mother and Icelandic fisherman father, he arrives in rural Mississippi as racial tensions reach the critical level of change in the 1950's. His mother doesn't quite know what to do with him. Walking around in a small Southern town spanking a "white" kid isn't exactly accepted behavior for black women during that time period. So in p ...more
Great book. Its like a Forest Gump story, but instead of being full of clichés, its full of taboos and really unpredictable. Funny and emotional most of the way through. I think the only shortcoming is that the humour is only strong for the first half. The plot stays interesting right until the end, though, and the writing is very good.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
SLJ Reviews 2006 February

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 de
Stephanie Cox
This was a very interesting read. The main character, Lee, undergoes several transformations throughout the course of the book. It's difficult to describe the plot without giving too much of it away so here is a description of the book I found. Lee Cotton is a black boy born white-skinned in segregated Eureka, Mississippi, in 1950. Over the course of Lee’s first twenty years, he will fall in love with the daughter of a local Klansman, get kicked senseless and left for dead on a freight train hea ...more
It's nice to read something that manages to deliver a story that continuously surprises you on how far the reality of its plot is willing to go. As a tale, this book is a great read that flows well and is oddly believable for such a unique chain of events - but it's the execution that really makes it wonderful.

Without giving too much away - the narrator tells the story of their life, which inevitably involves some fundamental shifts and transformations along the way. What surprised me was how we
The short 'n' sweet description of this book that I've seen favored by various web sites, etc., is "The story of Lee Cotton, who starts life as a black boy and ends it as a white woman." Besides pretty much begging for several bad Michael Jackson jokes to be made, this summary isn't quite accurate; there is rather a lot of culture and genderswapping (bwee!) in this book, but it's all more complicated than a single sentence summary can convey. Which is great—hurrah for not making it easy, which W ...more
Jun 11, 2009 Julie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
(Also published as "The ballad of Lee Cotton')
Inside the front cover are 3 pages of enthusiastic recommendations from critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Praise in terms of: joyful, exuberant, wildly entertaining, outrageously funny. And all deserved. It's difficult to write about this book without giving too many plot twists away; suffice to say expect the unexpected in this wonderfully audacious novel.
Ann Pearlman
Oct 29, 2014 Ann Pearlman rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Ann by: Book club read
I loved this book. It was a page turner that was often hilarious. A very political book with a tromp through civil rights, woman's liberation, gay rights, and transexual issues, it was extremely engaging and fun to read. Quite an accomplishment as it examined what is the essence of being human, and what is it that we always carry with us regardless of the places life takes us and how we change. HIghly recommend.
2010 bookcrossing comments:

Thank you again for sending this book to me! I hadn't heard of the writer or the book, so I may never have read it otherwise. It was a great story... I knew very little other than what I'd read on the back about it being in America's deep south about a boy with a black mother and an Icelandic father. And it was such a crazy story, with so many turns. Really big, dramatic turns as it happens as well. And yet none of it seemed unbelieveable in this story. It worked reall
OK, I originally had this at two stars because we had a great conversation about it at my book club. However, after thinking about it - I wouldn't have finished this book if I read it on my own. I get the overall tie-in that the guy/girl is actually an angel looking out for all of these characters, but SERIOUSLY??? How much messed up crap can happen to one person? Sex changes, racial changes and characters that are completely accepting of this without question! It was completely ridiculous. It w ...more
Nancy Doerrer
Lee Cotton is born in Eureka, MS to a black Mama and an Icelandic seaman who's long gone--Le is born white to a black family. He lives in between races for a time, taking counsel from his grandmother Celeste and his guardian angel James Jones VII.
Aradia V
I bought this book in the airport when they were out of the book I was hoping for. I enjoyed most of it. I felt that the author could have taken more time with certain things..perhaps write a sequel or just make it longer? Regardless its a very interesting look at being 'different' in more ways than many people get to experience in one life. The end felt a little lacking. But overall I would recommend least as a discussion piece.
I would also like to know more about the author. As this bo
Super funny and intriguing...then not as funny when one considers the deeper ideas behind identity, belonging, prejudice, etc. Really interesting and author's background in both humor and linguistics makes perfect sense.
Tracy Walters
OMG.....what to say about this book......WOW......I had NO idea it would cover such a broad scope of human issues in such a creative funny way. Lee Cotton/McCoy was an amazing person......a simpleton who was able to live a very full and unsual life because of varying circumstances......he truly knew what it was like to live as a female. He was definately one of a kind and quite the spectacular character......the ending was a little strange but did fit with the r ...more
So I have mixed reviews about this book, but I think the important thing to remember while reading it is intended to be bit funny! I think at times I forgot that little fact and then it just seemed too impossible to fathom. The good thing about this book is that it really explores issues from many different perspectives - black, white, man, woman. And that in itself is quite humorous. The main character, Lee Cotton/McCoy is probably one of the most entertaining people I have met lately. ...more
Richard King
Loved this read. A little reminiscent of Mark Twain with a taste of Voltaire. It was a hoot!
Every chapter had a new twist. A must read on American cultural insight, but written by a Brit.
Lori Carpenter
Dec 17, 2007 Lori Carpenter rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all
This book might be a bit "out there" for some, but if you keep an open mind, you'll find that it all makes sense for this person to keep living the life that he feels the time.

I really enjoyed this book; it forces you to look at situations from a very backward angle. I still laugh out loud when I think of the whole plastic-surgery-to-save-your-life, part of the book. This book manages to make you want to laugh at the absurdity of it (in a funny, ha, ha way...not a disapproving laugh A
Sally Whitehead
Within pages I really really liked this original and quirky book. With its wonderfully observed Southern colloquial dialogue and wry humour, I was all set for it to be a full on 5 Star read.

Sadly though Lee's life took a few too many twists and turns for me, and whilst I enjoyed each of his "guises" and felt the concept of reinvention/identity was successfully sustained, and the rich social politics of many a human condition was explored, it was all just a touch TOO fantastical for me, and the e
I would recommend this to everyone I know.
The premise of this book is really interesting. A black mother gives birth to a white child during the 1950's. Tales of the boy's experience were interesting, but I stopped reading after a few chapters because it starts to become too sexually graphic for my tastes.
I am curious to know what the happens in the story, as the main character, Lee Cotton, is endearing. It just seems to me that the author could have shared a little less nudity, not gone the way of smut. Good literature can be written w
Frederick Bingham
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 anticli
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