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The Alchemy of Race and Rights: diary of a Law Professor.

There must be something in the water at Harvard University. First, Derrick Bell, who resigned from the Law School because it failed to add a black woman to the faculty, writes a book of metaphorical tales of racial injustice. Now Patricia J. Williams, a Harvard law grad, blends legal and literary theory in her autobiographical essay, The Alchemy of Race and Rights: Diary of a Law Professor.

But unlike Bell's weave of law as literature, Williams does not fictionalize. The miscellany of diary entries, lecture notes, exams, briefs and even rejection letters are grist for her mill. It is apparent, as the reader looks over Williams' shoulder, that many subjects are worthy of analysis. She handles topics as diverse as Tawana Brawley, sausage machines, Benetton's advertisements, Howard Beach, Othello and food stamps with jurisprudence and deft anecdotal style.

Williams is an associate professor of law at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who teaches commercial law, but her classroom assignments depart from the conventional. Her personal reflections also stymie students. "I sit in my office reviewing my students' evaluations of me," she says. "I am deified, reified and vilified in all sorts of cross directions."

These evaluations of a professor who mixes bits of law and pieces of everyday life into unique combinations are another way of experiencing Williams' iconoclastic invention. In her book, alchemy is the operative word.
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Author:Boyd, Herb
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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