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The Rooster's Egg [Paperback]

Patricia J. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 25, 1997 0674779436 978-0674779433 Reprint

"Jamaica is the land where the rooster lays an egg...When a Jamaican is born of a black woman and some English or Scotsman, the black mother is literally and figuratively kept out of sight as far as possible, but no one is allowed to forget that white father, however questionable the circumstances of birth...You get the impression that these virile Englishmen do not require women to reproduce. They just come out to Jamaica, scratch out a nest and lay eggs that hatch out into 'pink' Jamaicans."

--Zora Neale Hurston

We may no longer issue scarlet letters, but from the way we talk, we might as well: W for welfare, S for single, B for black, CC for children having children, WT for white trash. To a culture speaking with barely masked hysteria, in which branding is done with words and those branded are outcasts, this book brings a voice of reason and a warm reminder of the decency and mutual respect that are missing from so much of our public debate. Patricia J. Williams, whose acclaimed book The Alchemy of Race and Rights offered a vision for healing the ailing spirit of the law, here broadens her focus to address the wounds in America's public soul, the sense of community that rhetoric so subtly but surely makes and unmakes.

In these pages we encounter figures and images plucked from headlines--from Tonya Harding to Lani Guinier, Rush Limbaugh to Hillary Clinton, Clarence Thomas to Dan Quayle--and see how their portrayal, encoding certain stereotypes, often reveals more about us than about them. What are we really talking about when we talk about welfare mothers, for instance? Why is calling someone a "redneck" okay, and what does that say about our society? When young women appear on Phil Donahue to represent themselves as Jewish American Princesses, what else are they doing? These are among the questions Williams considers as she uncovers the shifting, often covert rules of conversation that determine who "we" are as a nation.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a series of ruminative and sometimes trenchant essays, Columbia University law professor Williams (The Alchemy of Race and Rights) reaches beyond legal cases to probe America's obsession with race. The campus crisis over "political correctness," she observes, is a necessary part of our halting attempt to have a serious conversation about race at a time when integration now often means assimilation. Listening to right-wing talk radio, Williams doesn't froth at outrageous comments about race and gender but discerns "a much more general contempt for the world." She deftly deconstructs the media war against Lani Guinier, President Clinton's nominee for assistant attorney general for civil rights, noting that demagogic City College professor Leonard Jeffries got a greater chance to have his views aired?again and again. A single mother of an adopted son, Williams dissects myths about single mothers and reveals how race and racism affect the adoption market. These essays, some published in magazines like Ms. and the Nation, are usually interesting; however, they don't gain much as a collection.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Written in a personal and anecdotal style from the author's perspective as a professor, a single black mother, and (much less important) a lawyer...Many [of Williams's essays] are inspired by a popular event or personality, which becomes the springboard for her hyper-intelligent musings...She emerges as a thoughtful social critic from the left...Her arguments are anything but doctrinaire. (Saul B. Shapiro New York Times Book Review)

[Williams's] overall contribution to contemporary political debate is invaluable. Her insights are complex and compelling. Few today see so clearly, and write so engagingly, about the prejudice that has settled so insidiously into our lives. (Jane Goldman and Miranda Joseph In These Times)

The Rooster's Egg is masterfully crafted and complex. Williams's outrage and despair leavened by her insight and wit make her perhaps uniquely able to get us past that Catch-22 that leads to either silence or hostility to a place where a conversation about prejudice can occur. (Patricia Ewick Contemporary Sociology)

Williams...writes with passion from a feminist/neo-Marxist point of view, demonstrating how the tolerance of intolerance helps to keep enshrined segregation and prejudice in a society which is theoretically integrated. (Gerald De Groot Jewish Chronicle)

The latest book by Patricia Williams has two striking features. The first is its breadth. In the course of thirteen short chapters, Williams takes a brisk tour of contemporary American politics and culture...Beyond its electicism, William's book is also striking because of its sheer readability. Unlike many law professors who have abandoned academic convention for the sake of presenting narratives, Williams writes with engaging style. She knows how to turn a phrase and how to tell a good story--two talents which permit her to produce enviably fluid prose...Her insights into the varied notions of identity, difference, and value embedded within a range of contemporary debates are truly first rate. (Keith J. Bybee Law and Politics Book Review)

In her second book, Professor Williams turns a focused look at what forces in American society result in the 'persistence of prejudice.' This baker's dozen of essays covers a wide range of topics, including talk show 'town halls,' single mothers, talk radio, Lani Guinier, welfare, Clarence 'X' Thomas, affirmative action, and adoption. With disarming wit, Williams skillfully and pointedly uses stories, anecdotes, and analysis to examine these and other issues...The Alchemy of Race and Rights [her previous book], and The Rooster's Egg will frustrate, disquiet and aggravate some readers by relentlessly delving into the changing and often hidden facets of racism or sexism. But this is her intent. (Lea B. Vaughn, University of Washington School of Law)

[The Rooster's Egg] serves as a reminder that the problem of race is a constant yet to be addressed by the powers that be...The analysis comes from a female voice with enough clarity, stylings, and strength to make it a fresh and forceful analysis...This is a commendable contribution by a strong and commanding African-American female voice. (Oliver A. Smith New York Law Journal)

Williams's writing exceeds the usual boundaries of legal, and even of political, concerns. Her focus remains the translation of beliefs and values, including her own, into various legal, social, pedagogical and political practices...What emerge in these essays are the consequences of received and esteemed social knowledges, for the 'market' in adoptive children, for the survival of black families, for justice, for communal ties and for the aspirations of racially marked people...[This book] will be enormously useful to those who wish to challenge the racial, ethnic, gender and national solipsism of much of what passes for foundational 'knowledge'. (Cynthia Burack Feminism & Psychology)

In The Rooster's Egg: On the Persistence of Prejudice Patricia Williams brings her searing and formidable intellect to a vast array of the images, texts and practices of American popular culture, analysing them along lines of race, gender, class, culture, and sexual orientation. (Annalise Acorn Canadian Philosophical Reviews)

Patricia Williams's The Rooster's Egg...extols the utility of a heterogeneous approach and the radical possibilities of narrative--or, indeed 'narrative jurisprudence'. Although not highly theoretical, Williams (once again) draws the discourses of law, race, sex and class into a sustained critique of US identity politics. In the midst of, and perhaps in defiance of, criticism of autobiographical legal scholarship...Williams seamlessly incorporates personal narrative into her objective analysis, and makes striking connections between race and the often neglected discourse of class. (The Year's Work in English Studies [UK)

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Reprint edition (May 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674779436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674779433
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.8 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,752,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riposte to previous reviewer October 20, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I disagree with your dismissal of this book. I found it very serious and thought-provoking. As a feminist theorist I am concerned with reading everything available on matters of gender and bias; Williams' book was valuable for the many things she says of which I was not aware of or which I had not previously considered.
Your concern that Williams' book "dilutes" feminism, or that it is not "radical" enough in its treatment of education, shows more about your particular concerns than it does about her work. Dismissing Williams' thought in the way you do, in fact, suggests to me that you have a particular bias of your own concerning what is properly part of "women's interests" and are unwilling to confront Williams's work seriously and allow it to affect your view of race and gender prejudice. I can hardly imagine anyone better placed, or better able, to diagnose and analyze the "persistence of prejudice" than Professor Williams, and I think she ought to be listened to even though there are specific contentions within the book with which I disagree. Her style, which combines personal reflections with wider theorizations of race, gender, and prejudice, is quite germane methodologically, and her insights are productive ones. I believe that anyone seriously concerned with understanding issues of education, prejudice, law, and culture could derive benefit from serious reading of Williams' work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars QUESTION EVERYTHING April 21, 2006
Format:Paperback
One can reach the pinnacles of law, yet Williams forces us to question everything: the structure of power, the continuing inequities, the superficialness of progress....

It's depressing really yet the author makes it fun to read and learn about unspeakable realities.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to be especially enthusiastic, but... May 12, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This is hardly the sort of book that is going to impress everyone with revelatory arguments, or even offer a new perspective upon contemporary cultural discourse, but Williams is at least occasionally lively in her discussions of feminism. I'm afraid I don't find her disucssions of education even the least bit compelling, and we need to turn to more radical and inventive/transgressive voices for that. Perhaps this book could be of use to high school students, however, in that it would promote classroom discussions without presenting any difficulties of argument such as that produced by more progressive thinkers. Prof. Williams is best at short, snappy chit chat regarding race and feminism, and I'm surprised that she has taken it upon herself to author entire books which might dilute the field. However, as an African American who is challenging the contemporary paradigms of race in this society, I'm pleased to discover all the help I can get.
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