Molehills of Mississippi

Finalist for the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction


Molehills of Mississippi: A Novel of Grace in an Age of Terror is a story told in the voices of William Bell, a seventeen-year-old misfit on the edge of maturity, and the people he collides with. Raised female but refusing that designation, expelled from a private segregation academy and trying to finish as a white basketball player in an all black public high school, he struggles to find a place in the Mississippi delta where he can feel whole. His mother’s apartment is out: her swelling panic over his masculinity makes their every encounter sting. The closest he comes is the homestead of the eccentric Samantha Lipscomb—a spiritually-evolved transsexual lady he met in an online forum for gender variants—but her ownership of this land, and thus her hopes for the future, are contested by a litigious stranger. Samantha, an aging veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, is invested in William’s safety and growth; when he noses out an unrepentant white-supremacist in a nursing home where he racks up court-ordered volunteer hours, she sees an opportunity to redress one of many vicious injustices that cast cold shadows over the earth. Can William navigate his community’s class and race divides, failing educational systems, conservative churches on every corner, and collective impulse to ignore cruelty rather than confront it—and maintain his spirit and sense of self?

Molehills of Mississippi breaks new and old ground at once with a tale of identity, fortitude, the price of silence, and the value of truth.