The novel "Wingshooters" is a searing, anguished novel about racial bigotry in a small, insulated Wisconsin town named Deerhorn, where people who were born there tend not to leave. These hard-working, mind-our-own-business townspeople have to contend with a biracial outsider, 9-year-old Michelle, with a Japanese mother and a white American father, who has been left with her paternal grandparents and never retrieved by her cold mother and feckless father.
She comes to love her grandparents, especially Charlie Le Beau. He "was a man, in a vital, fundamental way that grown men simply aren't today, at least not in the city," writes the embittered, defensive Michelle, now in her 40s, living in L.A. and looking back on her childhood.
The adult Michelle sometimes comments, but mostly we look through 9-year-old eyes, still innocent and hopeful though already wounded.
From its first pages, a cloud of ever-thickening foreboding hangs over the novel. Children and adults glower at Michelle, call her names, throw stones. Her own grandfather, by some feat of cognitive dissonance, loves her unconditionally even though he is as bigoted as his neighbors.
For a while the girl feels safe. She plays catch with Charlie, goes hunting with him, takes the dog Brett, who becomes an endearing personage in his own right, out for long bike rides. Rumors reach Deerhorn from the outside world: race riots, Vietnam War protests, the disgrace of a president. None of it impinges on the town, although Michelle, or more likely her grown self, muses that life is no longer certain: "[M]aybe it was the town, or the state, or the whole changing, unpredictable country. Maybe it was something diseased or off-kilter in human nature itself."[