In a personal and profound examination of the United States legal system and its effect on African Americans, Patricia J. Williams uses the term alchemy
--the medieval, mysterious practice of turning base metal into gold--as a haunting metaphor for the nearly mystical process by which United States law emboldens and endangers blacks through arcane interpretation, as well as the heroic will of a people to make those laws manifest. "I'm interested in the way in which the legal language flattens and confines in absolutes the complexity of meaning inherent in any given problem," she writes. "I am trying to challenge the usual limits of commercial discourse by using an intentionally double-voiced and relational, rather than a traditionally legal black letter, vocabulary."
With an authorial voice that draws upon Williams's perspective as teacher, lawyer, black American, and woman, The Alchemy of Race and Rights uses a palette of court cases, educational encounters, and personal experiences--including her discovery of her slave ancestor and her interactions with school deans over how to teach law--to create a literary cubist portrait detailing the rhetoric and reality that color the complexion of American justice. --Eugene Holley Jr.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
One of the most invitingly personal, even vulnerable, books I've read...Williams has a knack for keeping you just a bit off balance...Her readings invigorate familiar controversies: If you thought there was nothing new to be said about Howard Beach or Eleanor Bumpurs, Tawana Brawley or Baby M., read Williams on them. But some of the most magical turns of argument flow from far less public events...The law needs a brain...and, even more, a heart and some courage. Certificates won't help. This book just might. (Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The Nation
Williams melds sophisticated legal scholarship, memoir and allegory into a rich melange that will change perceptions about the substance and spirit of black women...At a time when the nation is wrestling with political correctness or wrongness...Williams' candor about the law and her life is refreshing...The Alchemy of Race and Rights
brings jurisprudence to the people while leaving no doubt that the author is among the finest legal talents among us. (Evelyn C. White San Francisco Chronicle
This is a work where style and substance are deeply connected...Writers of feminist jurisprudence first pushed the door open wide some fifteen years ago, and many scholars of color have walked through. Williams/author' work is among the best, and the most respected, in this tradition...There is passion in these essays, and there is rage, clarity, confusion, intelligence and tenderness. This is more than the alchemy of race and rights. This is the magic and complexity of life. (Judy Scales-Trent Women's Review of Books
Williams is an original and imaginative mind, an unstultified, insubordinate thinker who jumps off cliffs and lands on her feet, who flies close to the sun and never melts her wings. She accomplishes the near impossible: simultaneous depth of engagement in law and world. The alchemical forge she theorizes between race and rights parallels her own method: 'the making of something out of nothing.' See what she makes out of sausage, polar bears, Beethoven. See if you can ever shop at Benetton's again. (Catharine A. MacKinnon, University of Michigan Law School)