by Paul M. Barrett ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 1, 1999
A fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of race and character in a court discrimination case. Lawrence Mungin, who holds two degrees from Harvard, is a black attorney from the projects in Queens, New York, who's all too anxious to leave behind his racial baggage. Perhaps unwittingly, Mungin appears to distance himself from so much that ultimately he comes across as wooden, sterile, and not so much black as opaque. But that's precisely how he seems to want it. Young, reasonably attractive, well dressedâ€”better still, well spokenâ€”he chooses Martin Luther King Jr. as his hero over Malcolm X, and debate over basketball as his chosen calling: Polite, polished, he is the "good" black. Thus, in joining the Washington, D.C., law firm of Katten Muchin and Zavis to practice bankruptcy law, he expects to make partner in a couple of years. But he finds himself relegated to paper-pushing, and he eventually sues his employer. This is no typical racial discrimination suit in which the employer is caught conspiring against black employees, leading to a court award of millions. Rather, it's a study in the moral ambiguities of race in America. The law firm apparently mistreated all of its employees, and Mungin, as the lone black, was no exception. Moreover, though at first he seemed to eschew all ties to racial matters, when the circumstances warrant, he willingly manipulates race. Barrett, a Wall Street Journal legal affairs writer who coincidentally was Mungin's friend at Harvard Law School, manages to keep a discreet distance from his subject while also enjoying access to him and other parties of the court case. Suspenseful, highly entertaining courtroom drama. (Author tour)
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999
Page Count: 304
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999
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