New Books Network

Tsedale Melaku

You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer

Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism

Rowman & Littlefield 2019

New Books in African American StudiesNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in LawNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Sociology June 29, 2020 Sarah E. Patterson

What kind of discrimination do Black women face in the legal profession? Tsedale Melaku explores this question and more in her new book: You...

What kind of discrimination do Black women face in the legal profession? Tsedale Melaku explores this question and more in her new book: You Don’t Look Like a Lawyer: Black Women and Systemic Gendered Racism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019). Using in-depth interviews with Black women about their lived experiences working in elite law firms, Melaku explores topics including double burden, system gendered racism, and color-blind ideology. She also pushes our thinking further about these issues through discovery of issues including the invisible labor clause and inclusion tax. Her respondents elaborate on their experiences of having their appearances and positions continually scrutinized, leading to hypervisibility and invisibility. Melaku also explores women’s experiences of isolation, exclusion, and ultimately attrition through daily experiences as well as through important relationships within professional networks.

This book will be of interest to many readers inside and outside of Sociology. Scholars of race, gender, and work will find this to be an important reading for their own work and a critical addition to their classrooms. Anyone working in professional institutions could benefit from reading the experiences of these women and Melaku’s clear and thorough analysis of next steps and take-aways.


Sarah E. Patterson is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.