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Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite
Call Me Phaedra: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender by Lise Pearlman is a spellbinding biography of an unflagging woman, a powerful lawyer whose contribution helped in shaping the societal conscience of her time, from the McCarthy Era until the '70s. Fay Stender put aside the concert piano to become an advocate for change, taking up the mission to defend the most controversial and notorious criminals of her time. Follow her impassioned presence in the courtroom in cases like the death penalty trial of Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton and through a life punctuated by protest marches, riots, assassinations, police brutality and more. But then an ex-felon invaded her home in 1979, shot her, and left her crippled.
This is a well-researched, beautifully written biography of one woman’s courage and her incredible journey to challenging the status quo, following her vision, and fighting for justice. Lise Pearlman seems to write from an intimate position, exploring the soul of the protagonist through the challenging and turbulent times in US history. The author weaves powerful political, cultural, and social elements into the setting, transporting readers to a revolutionary period. The writing is evocative, infused with a singular, irresistible charm. Lise Pearlman is a great biographer and storyteller who allows history and social issues to come out through the story. While Call Me Phaedra: The Life and Times of Movement Lawyer Fay Stender tells the story of an icon, it revisits the mutations within the judicial system, the reforms in the penitentiary system, and a lot more. It’s both entertaining and informative.