December 06, 2004 12:00 PM

MEMOIR

by Patricia J. Williams

CRITIC’S CHOICE

A professor of law and recipient of a MacArthur genius award, Williams is an intellectual whose perspective is panoramic. In these smart, funny essays, the 50-ish single mother and great-grand daughter of slaves writes not only about the “double consciousness” described by W.E.B. DuBois (a sense of the split between racial stereo types and one’s true self), but also about mommy guilt, mood rings and the white conservatives who attack her politics at a dinner party. ( Two years later, she writes, “I am still coming up with snappy answers.”) She also examines the frustrations of being a working mother—a partner at a friend’s firm complains about women lawyers “breeding like rabbits”—and the peculiarities of interracial friendships. (Mystified by one another’s hair, she and her best white friend agree that “it was inconceivable…that we had been friends for as long as we have.”) Incisive and gently cranky, Williams is like a best friend melded with the professor who wowed you in college. This is a book you’ll want to pass along to every bold woman you know.

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