At twelve years old, Cornelius, the son of an Italian-American woman and an older black man from Mississippi named Herman, secretly takes over his father's job at a silent film theater in New York's East Village. Five years later, as Herman lives out his last days, he shares his wisdom with his son, explaining that the person who controls the narrative of history controls their own fate. After his father dies and his mother disappears, Cornelius sets about reinventing himself -- as Professor John Woman, a man who will spread Herman's teachings into the classrooms of his unorthodox southwestern university and beyond. But there are other individuals who are attempting to influence the narrative of John Woman, and who might know something about the facts of his hidden past.
"*Starred Review* Cornelius' beautiful, Italian American mother has left him with his father, Herman, an African American from Mississippi who works as a projectionist in a rundown East Village theater screening silent films, but whose true calling is studying history. When Herman's health fails, Cornelius covertly takes over his job. Solitary and scholarly, he acquires a radical education from his philosopher father, who tells him, There is no true event, Cornelius, only a series of occurrences open to interpretation. Cornered and desperate, Cornelius commits a serious crime; succumbs to the rough bewitchment of an investigating policewoman; then escapes, eventually surfacing as Professor John Woman at a private university run by a secret society in the southwestern desert. His unnervingly innovative and democratizing approach to teaching history earns him adoration and hate; then, inevitably, his hidden past erupts. After launching his promising new series featuring PI Joe King Oliver with Down the River unto the Sea (2018), Mosley is at his commanding, comfort-zone-blasting best in this heady tale of a fugitive genius. His hero's lectures are marvels of intellectual pyrotechnics and provocative inquiries; intense sex scenes raise questions about gender roles and intimacy; and John Woman's increasingly drastic predicament and complex moral quandary precipitate arresting insights into race, freedom, power, and the stories we tell to try to make sense of the ceaseless torrent of human conflict and desire. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Versatile, masterful Mosley is a reader magnet, and this collision of crime and academic jousting will incite special interest.--Donna Seaman Copyright 2018 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"In Mosley's offbeat and insightful novel (following Down the River unto the Sea), 16-year-old New Yorker Cornelius "CC" Jones-the brilliant son of an Italian-American flirt and an older black autodidact-spends his evenings in the early 1990s working his father's job in a downtown theater while his father is ill at home. One night, in a moment of violence, CC kills the theater's landlord; the crime will haunt him forever. He soon leaves New York under the new identity of John Woman and goes on to study at elite universities, creating a new intellectual movement around the unreliable nature of history. His skills and area of expertise lead him to the New University of the Southwest, a liberal college funded and staffed by members of a mysterious organization known as the Platinum Path, who have taken quite the interest in John and in the defining moments of his childhood and true past. Fast paced but still full of provocative questions about society, the story grounds the wilder aspects of its plot by providing a fascinating cast of endearing characters. Mosley's novel is one to savor, and an unpredictable, unabashedly strange good time. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis Agency. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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