Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Book Review & Giveaway: The Partner Track

By Jami Deise

**Giveaway is now closed**

Several years ago, as an editor of Diversity and the Bar magazine (published by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association), I worked on an article analyzing the law schools attended by partners at the country’s largest law firms. The research showed that while white male partners had attended schools of a variety of quality, minority partners had almost all come from the top law schools in the country – Harvard, Yale, Columbia. To me, this showed that a minority lawyer needed to be the best of the best to achieve partnership, while white men were able to take many different paths to the top. A white man with whom I discussed the article saw things completely differently: “It’s affirmative action,” he sneered. “Those law schools are so desperate for minorities, they’re shoo-ins. Minorities don’t go to those other law schools.”

That is what 21st century racism sounds like.

During the period of time when I was reading Helen Wan’s compelling debut novel The Partner Track, a brouhaha exploded on Twitter under the hash tag “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen.” Used primarily by African-American feminists, these tweets detailed how the issues white women fought for ignored the concerns of women of color. Indeed, when I raised my hand to review this novel, I assumed it was about a woman juggling marriage and children while working for the law firm brass ring. In other words, a typical white woman “Lean In” issue.

Instead, Wan’s novel gave me a first person look at the daily slights endured by a brilliant, hard-working (and single without children) Asian-American female lawyer. Ingrid Yung is an eighth-year associate up for partnership at a major New York law firm. Specializing in mergers & acquisitions, she’s personally tapped to lead an important deal for one of the firm’s largest clients. Her work could make or break her career. But at the same time, she’s “encouraged” to participate on the firm’s new diversity committee, and babysit a new paralegal who’s also the son of another major client. As she works her butt off, Ingrid is assured she’s a shoo-in for partner – after all, all the other minority women left a long time ago.

While Ingrid is occasionally forced to deal with out-and-out racism – catcalls on the street that turn into derogatory racist comments – mostly she deals with the casual boys’ network that never actively seeks to shut out minorities and women (as an Asian woman, Ingrid is a “two-fer”), but never seems to notice that when they hire their friends’ sons or only golf with men who played for their high school, they end up leaving out people who don’t look like them.

Even so, Ingrid keeps her head down and her nose to the grindstone. She still believes that she who works hardest will be ultimately successful. Her biggest downfall is her inability to grasp that those around her are not playing by the same rules.

The Partner Track is written in first person, which allows the reader to experience exactly what Ingrid does and feel how she feels. Never strident nor shrill, Ingrid reacts in the moment and then tries to move on. The reader never feels that Ingrid might be overreacting or judging others too harshly. At the same time, she gives other characters enough of a voice that the reader is able to see how even those who have benefitted from the boys’ network might also be trapped by it. (While the novel is engaging and accessible even to someone who earned a C in her journalism law class, its personal treatment of important national corporate issues make me think that The Partner Track will, in a few years, be required law school reading. Or at least for law firm diversity managers.)

Somehow, author Wan managed to write this stunning novel while working as an associate general counsel for Time, Inc. (although apparently it took her a decade.) Her grasp of plot and character seem much more advanced than is typically found in a debut novel. I hope it doesn’t take her another ten years to write her second.

Thank to Wunderkind PR for the book in exchange for an honest review. They have THREE copies for some lucky US readers.

How to win:
Tell us if anyone ever made an assumption about you and how you proved them wrong. (Or if you made an assumption about someone else and how they proved you wrong.)

One entry per person.

Please include your e-mail address or another way to reach you if you win. Entries without contact information will NOT be counted.

US only. Giveaway ends September 24th at midnight EST.

BookTrib is also giving away copies of this novel through September 20th. (US/Canada)


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26 comments:

Darcey said...

I have learned the hard way that when you judge someone you could be way off the mark. I have had a few people come into my life unexpectedly. When I knew them when I was younger they were not at all as I presumed them to be. It was the most pleasant surprise!

TinaB said...

I admit I've made assumptions about people. Sometimes I'm right..sometimes I'm wrong. Sounds like a great book!
Brannanflooring@aol.com

Mary Jo Burke said...

Never underestimate anyone.

Nova said...

People assume just because I don't "look" sick at times, I am not sick at all. I try to educate them as much as I can about my illness; the good and the bad.

Mrs Mommy Booknerd said...

People think I am a tough person, but deep down I am super sensitive and tender!

Mrsmommybooknerdsbookreviews@gmail.com

Jessica said...

Some people assume that because I'm a blonde I'm stupid but I prove them wrong by showing them I'm smart!

Thanks!
-Jessica M
walkingcorpse11@hotmail.com

rhonda said...

Peopke think because im short im a pushover forget it im from,new york.lomazowr@gmail.com

Sheerie said...

Having had 3 children and working as a part-time receptionist on delivery suite, I made an assumption that when our 19year old daughter fell pregnant unexpectedly, she would be a nightmare delivering her baby as she can't even stand the thought of needles. I was with her along with her partner when she gave birth and she was EXCEPTIONAL, just gas & air and a painful back to back birth. Never underestimate anybody. One of the proudest days of my life.

Connie said...

Years ago we lived in Paris where my husband was a scientist for a NATO organization. There were frequent international meetings held in Paris and other NATO countries. I attended these meetings with my husband as frequently as I could get away from my own job at the American Embassy. I felt that I was a “hostess” for the meetings in Paris and did my best to introduce the wives to one another and see that everyone was enjoying the extra curricular activities that were planned for them. There was one woman who usually attended who had a grouchy attitude and tended to offend people with her off-putting comments. At first, I thought of ignoring her and concentrating on the other ladies. But something inside of me said that I was going to befriend her however I could. I did my best to chat with her frequently and make sure that she was part of the group. Later, she and I became good friends. I figured out that she was just shy and being grouchy was simply her shell she had built up. I’m so glad that I took the time to get to really know her. Even though she was quite outspoken on subjects, I had to admire the fact that she certainly wasn’t a pushover! So, take the time to draw in a shy person the next time you’re at an event. You will probably make a new friend for life.

bn100 said...

Someone thought I couldn't cook, but I cooked them a good meal

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

Linda Kish said...

As does Nova, I have had the "You don't look sick" comment often. Hidden illness is still illness.

Jilleen said...

I worked lots of years at a public accounting firm. Assumptions were made everyday. I could so relate to this book.

Jilleen said...

Sorry.

Seasidebooknook at yahoo dot com.

Anonymous said...

I've definitely experienced both of these situations and as I've gotten older I've become much more aware of the thoughts I have when judging others. I think the one that sticks out in my mind the most has to do with my husband. At the beginning of our marriage I was surprised by how much input he wanted to have about things like our home d├ęcor and also how sensitive he could be at times. I realized that I had made some assumptions about him as a man and a husband based on gender stereotypes and felt very ashamed of myself. Especially because I have a minor in women's studies.

monsterhead01(at)comcast(dot)net

Summer Grinstead said...

Assumption: I have a college degree, I make lots of money. Hah.

sumsum085@aol.com

rubynreba said...

Because my husband I have both retired, we have lots of money! Not!
pbclark(at)netins(dot)net

StephTheBookworm said...

Ugh,yes, people sometimes assume I'm a B because I'm shy. :(

Amber Johnson said...

We're human and it's hard not to judge, but the key is to be aware that it is a judgment and just try to be mindful! What is scary is the people that do not even realize they are are judging and are completely racist!
These seems petty in comparison to racism, but I tend to get viewed as young and not experienced. I DO look young, but I am not as young as most think I am.

missamberljohnson at gmail dot com

ncsuloges said...

People always assume I know nothing about football just because I am a girl. I was absolutely THRILLED last night when my boyfriend said, "wow, you know more than I do!"
ncsuloges@yahoo.com

Rosita said...

I think some people have underestimated me simply on the basis of gender. Definitely not a smart move. ;-) rosita[DOT]p[DOT]mariani[AT]gmail[dot]com

Patricia said...

I have been working hard on not jumping to conclusions about people. patricia {dot} mariani dot esq {at} gmail {dot} com

Surina said...

I work with mostly old, white men, and I am a young, minority, woman, so often times, they talk over me and feel like they know more than me. But I have found that when I am knowledgeable and confident when I speak, they will respect me.

uncramses@gmail.com

Janet Josselyn said...

As a (former)litigator, I spent 2 years working on a huge case involving all of the railroads in the northeast and I was the only woman attorney out of 23 attorneys. I had to go along to get along but I also had to stand up for myself upon occasion. One such occasion was when I went to a deposition at Rogers & Wells in NYC and informed the receptionist that I was so-and so and was there for the so-and-so deposition. Then I heard her call to the conference room that the COURT REPORTER had arrived - apparently because as a woman in that viper's nest, I must have been a court reporter (or more accurately, a stenographer)! But the 22 male attorneys loved it! I never heard the end of it.

Bridget O'Neill said...

I don't know if this counts, but most people wouldn't think that my daughter is adopted, since she looks a bit like my husband. :) Most people are very surprised when I tell them that she is adopted.

Bjoneill@hotmail.com

Melissa said...

Thanks for participating and talking about assumptions people make about each other.

Thanks to Wunderkind PR for sharing the books with our winners.

Random.org chose THREE winners from all entries with contact info (one entry per person).

Congrats to Mary Jo Burke, Rhonda and Summer Grinstead!

Connie said...

Congratulations, Ladies! Enjoy.