News Flash: Black prom queen wakes up white in Mississippi
The title of One Mississippi is a bit deceptive, as this novel actually plunges us through multiple layers of Southern life during the 1970s. You’ll be immediately drawn to the coming-of-age central character, Daniel Musgrove, who elicits laughs, worry lines and deep parental urges to send advice fast, page after page.
Daniel and his family recently moved from up north to embark on a new life in Minor, Mississippi. Here, Minor’s integrated high school becomes the stage on which Daniel lives out his adolescence, as well as a microcosm of a South trying hard to maneuver through the upheavals brought on by integration and other sweeping social changes.
Daniel’s inquisitiveness highlights this book, a long-awaited new novel from Childress, author of Crazy in Alabama, one of the finer novels on race written in the ’90s. Daniel’s keen curiosity allows us to come of age with him, to travel from the loss of his sexual innocence all the way to the strange case of amnesia suffered by the first African-American high-school prom queen, who awakens from a prom-night accident with the notion that she is undeniably, inarguably… lily white.
We can be grateful for filters like Daniel, trying his best to be an enlightened man in a world so shadowed by the past.