Patricia Williams
2024 |
Literary Collections

Brilliant essays from the renowned Nation columnist—aka the Mad Law Professor—tackling questions of identity, bioethics, race, surveillance, and more Beginning with a jaw-dropping rumination on a centuries-old painting featuring a white man with a black man’s leg surgically attached (with the expired black leg-donor in the foreground), contracts law scholar and celebrated journalist Patricia J. Williams uses the lens of the law to take on core questions of identity, ethics, and race. With her trademark elegant prose and critical legal studies wisdom, Williams brings to bear a keen analytic eye and a lawyer’s training to chapters exploring the ways we have legislated the ownership of everything from body parts to gene sequences—and the particular ways in which our laws in these areas isolate non-normative looks, minority cultures, and out-of-the-box thinkers. At the heart of “Wrongful Birth” is a lawsuit in which a white couple who use a sperm bank sue when their child “comes out black”; “Bodies in Law” explores the service of genetic ancestry testing companies to answer the question of who owns DNA. And “Hot Cheeto Girl” examines the way that algorithms give rise to new predictive categories of human assortment, layered with market-inflected cages of assigned destiny. In the spirit of Dorothy Roberts, Rebecca Skloot, and Anne Fadiman, The Miracle of the Black Leg offers a brilliant meditation on the tricky place where law, science, ethics, and cultural slippage collide.

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The Miracle of the Black Leg

Notes on Race, Human Bodies, and the Spirit of the Law