Navin believes he was born a poor black child in Mississippi. He is, however, actually white. Upon figuring this out, he heads north to St. Louis to find himself. After landing a job at a gas station, Navin is excited to discover his name printed in the new phone book. This ratification of his existence leads him from one misadventure to another -- as he invents gadgets, dodges bullets, joins the carnival and seeks love in the arms of beautiful Marie .