Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own by Patricia J. Williams Farrar, Straus & Giroux, November 2004 $24., ISBN 0-374-11407-2
Williams, a professor of law at Columbia University, is one of only a few writers who can engage me in reading about race, gender and other critical social, political and legal issues without making me feel as if I were embroiled in academia at its most uninspiring.
In her fourth book, Open House: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own, Williams, a 2000 MacArthur Fellowship recipient (a.k.a. the "genius grant"), invites readers into a series of candid accounts, informed by her own personal and family histories. From "The Fourth Wall," to "The Outhouse" "The Kitchen" "The Boudoir," "The Music Room," "The Pool Room," "The Crystal Stair" and "The Dusty Parlor," the writer engages our sensibilities with provocative comments on issues that affect us on personal and societal levels.
We learn, for example, of the author's Aunt Mary, who in deciding to "pass," "became an early pioneer of 'don't ask, don't tell' assimilatinnism...." Williams also asserts that "the general paradox of African Americans' attempts to render ourselves mainstream is that the very rituals of proving that we are 'just like' the girl next door are themselves the proof of our...