Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams with Jeannine Amber
I heard about the memoir before I heard about Patricia Williams herself, but, long after the words are read, it is her that sticks with you. Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams, and coauthored by Jeannine Amber, tells the hard-to-believe-its true story of Patricia, from her poor, drug-dealing adolescence in Georgia through to adulthood, as a stand-up comedian, in Indiana.
Williams, otherwise known as Rabbit, came of age in the 80s, during the crack cocaine epidemic in the country, which hit her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia quite hard. She opens with scenes from her grandfather's house, which also served as a speakeasy. She woke up each morning to drunks passed out in her house, but her grandfather was always there. It wasn't perfect - her mother would rouse her from sleep to rob the still slumbering drunks - but it was a roof over her head and there was always food in her belly. Until the day her grandfather shot someone in the ass, and that was that. He went to prison, and thus began her childhood of bouncing from house to house before eviction, along with her four siblings.
Her mother was a drunk, and her brothers would all end up in and out of prison. Her older sister got pregnant only a few months before Rabbit did, and would later end up addicted to crack, leaving Rabbit with four nieces to raise alongside her own children. Rabbit became pregnant at 13, and was mothering two children under the age of two by 15. The father of her children was eight years older and married, with one or two other mistresses as a time. However, for a while, he provided her with a good life, dealing crack, until he was arrested. She took on the business then, for a while, raising enough money to keep her children and cousins fed and clothed, even at the age of still just 16 and 17.
When she was 18, she was arrested, and sent to prison for eight months. She was dealing drugs again as soon as she was out. Along the way, she did have mentors, though. After her grandfather, she had a third grade teacher, and a man who owned the laundromat on the street she'd later deal drugs. When she came in with a wound from being shot in the head by her same boyfriend, it was he that told her she deserved more than that.
When she left him, she met a man who had served in the military, growing up not far from her, but with a very different childhood. He didn't ask her to change right away, and kept showing up for her, but soon she gave up her old way of life and began to think of alternatives. She got her GED, and went to school to become a medical assistant. She worked with her husband, raising their four kids and her four nieces in one home until the day her sister retrieved them, ten years after losing custody.
One day, in her thirties, she heard the call to the stage, and began to do stand up comedy. She spoke on podcasts too. People listened because her story is real, and her humor in the face of such tragedy, violence and hardship is awe-inspiring... and hilarious. One such listener was journalist Jeannine Amber, who heard her story and decided to help Rabbit write it.
The collection of these chapters is an honest, rare look into an incredible life. I couldn't recommend it more highly. And don't worry, I didn't spoil it. In comedy, it's about finding your voice. If you have a good story, great. How you tell the story is a whole other thing, and it would be impossible to tell it like Rabbit.