OPEN HOUSE: Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own

Patricia Williams, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-11407-7

With a résumé that includes degrees from Wellesley and Harvard Law School, a law professorship at Columbia, a column in the Nation and a trio of books, Williams would seem to have enough material to fill several volumes of memoirs. In this thought-provoking, unconventional one, she combines family history with discourses on everything from race, class and slavery's legacy to why she likes O magazine. One chapter, "The Kitchen," begins with an account of buying herself a cappuccino maker, moves to a consideration of homelessness in New York City, continues on to detail her father's heritage, segues to thoughts on why African-Americans give their children unusual names, returns to cappuccino and her sophisticated godmother, makes its way around to trying to cook a turkey and on from there to other food anecdotes and a description of sharing cinnamon toast and steamed milk with her young son. Williams skillfully integrates her probing analyses of social and political issues with riffs on such topics as turning 50 and Michael Jackson's "carving up his face like a paper doily" to form a fluid whole. The book's most affecting parts are the rich, loving stories about Williams's family, from those born into slavery to a grandfather who graduated from Meharry Medical College in 1907. Agent, Marianne Merola. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/06/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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