At every point in Ms. Pat’s autobiography, “Rabbit”, I’m thinking, “damn, this still ends well – even after this?” Patricia Williams, a comedian, grew up in the height of the crack epidemic as a black girl in 1980s Atlanta. Daughter to an alcoholic mother, with 2 kids of her own before 15, ‘Rabbit’ (Ms. Pat’s nickname as a child) turns to selling crack as a teenager before eventually turning her life around.
This book is a pure telling of events – Ms. Pat doesn’t cater to my or any outsider’s narrative of what it means to grow up poor and black in Atlanta. Want to validate a conservative talking point like people using welfare to buy drugs and booze? Sure, you can find that here. Want to lift the book as evidence of systematic racial inequality? You can, but then you’d be reading through a lens of knowledge you already have – Ms. Pat doesn’t steer her story towards any sociological conclusion outside of her experiences (which are are mostly tragic, yet somehow hilariously retold).
In fact, Ms. Pat doesn’t seem to steer the reader towards any definite conclusion – even about herself. Instead of persuading the reader how to feel, the book focuses more on the events themselves: at one point, she’s making considerable profits from selling crack cocaine to addicts, but then another turn and she’s taking in four kids that are not her’s while she is still a teenager herself (and more later on). I came away from this thinking, Ms. Pat did a lot of bad things and Ms. Pat did a lot of good things, with the context and understanding for both.
Ms. Pat tells the truth and crafts a hard life story into an engaging narrative. She writes, “Moving up in this world is not easy… I went from living in an illegal liquor house to running from the cops to living in the suburbs with a flock of ducks outside my window. The only way I can explain how it happened is to tell you exactly what went down.” And that she does.