Peninsula of Lies by Edward Ball
A True Story of Mysterious Birth and Taboo Love

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Synopsis

Peninsula of Lies is a nonfiction mystery, set in haunting locales and peopled with fascinating characters, that unwraps the enigma of a woman named Dawn Langley Simmons, a British writer who lived in Charleston, South Carolina, during the 1960s and became the focus of one of the most unusual sexual scandals of the last century.

Born in England sometime before World War II, Dawn Langley Simmons began life as a boy named Gordon Langley Hall. Gordon was the son of servants at Sissinghurst Castle, the estate of Vita Sackville-West, where as a child he met Vita's lover Virginia Woolf. In his twenties, Gordon made his way to New York, where he became an author of society biographies and befriended such grandes dames as the actress Margaret Rutherford and the artist and heiress Isabel Whitney, who left him a small fortune.

The money allowed Gordon to buy a mansion in Charleston and fill it with period furniture, providing a stage for him to entertain more great ladies and to climb the social ladder of the Southern gentry to its heights.

However, Gordon's world changed instantly in 1968, when at The Johns Hopkins Hospital he underwent one of the first sex-reassignment surgeries, returning to Southern society and scandalizing Charleston as the new Dawn Langley Hall. Dawn Hall furthermore announced that her surgery had been corrective, because she'd actually been misidentified as a boy at birth.

Three months later, Dawn raised the stakes in still-segregated Charleston when she arranged her very public marriage to a young black mechanic, John-Paul Simmons. In due course, Dawn appeared around town pregnant; finally, she could be seen pushing a baby carriage with a child -- her daughter, Natasha.

National Book Award-winning author Edward Ball (Slaves in the Family) has written a detective story that deciphers the riddle of Dawn Simmons, a once rich and infamous changeling who died in 2000, her sexual identity never determined.

Peninsula of Lies is an engrossing narrative of a person who tested every taboo, as well as the confidence of observers in their own eyes.
 

About Edward Ball

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EDWARD BALL is the author of four works of nonfiction, including the bestselling, National Book Award-winning Slaves in the Family. Born and raised in the South, he attended Brown University and received his MFA from the University of Iowa before coming to New York and working as an art critic for the Village Voice. He lives in Connecticut and teaches writing at Yale University.
 
Published May 26, 2010 by Simon & Schuster. 288 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Gay & Lesbian, History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Peninsula of Lies

The New York Times

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Now I had to give myself physically to John-Paul.'' The desire to take Dawn and her vicissitudes seriously without betraying her posthumously or ridiculing her fragile exercise in self-construction (not to mention sympathy for the daughter and...

Apr 04 2004 | Read Full Review of Peninsula of Lies: A True Sto...

Publishers Weekly

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Newly a woman, "Dawn Pepita Hall" married her mechanic in a lavish church ceremony, defying in one stroke gender expectations and the racial codes of the American South, for she was white, her husband black and the year 1969.

| Read Full Review of Peninsula of Lies: A True Sto...

Book Reporter

Ball was of course aware of who Hall was,.

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Peninsula of Lies: A True Sto...

Nashville Public Library

What Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil did for Savannah, this story does for Charleston.

Jun 17 2010 | Read Full Review of Peninsula of Lies: A True Sto...

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