Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams

Knopf. Sept. 2022. 48p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593429075.
Gr 2-5–Born in Los Angeles in 1894, Paul R. Williams made his childhood love of drawing buildings into a storied career as the first Black licensed architect west of the Mississippi, curving and flowing around the “big stone wall of racism” to achieve his goals and prove that “sometimes dreams come true.” These metaphors and motifs are repeated throughout, along with the realities of racist laws, redlining, and sundown towns, and the unfair irony of Williams designing buildings he was not allowed to live in or patronize. Loney’s pacing is beautifully balanced as she tells Williams’s life story in the present tense, from childhood to early career, replete with the obstacles, pivots, and successes. Some readers may wonder about the details of his early life (parents’ death, sibling separation), but the back matter provides additional information. Mallett has lavished care on the subject and his work, sumptuously and carefully illustrating people and buildings alike in dreamy, realistic style, suffused with golden California light. The gorgeous endpapers showcase maps and postcards of Los Angeles, along with architects’ tools. More literal-minded readers might wonder where the “curve and flow” are, as in the many exterior views, the buildings have clean lines and sharp right angles, but one large interior is shown, and curves are evident there. Finishing touches include an author’s note, selected sources, photos, and time line.
VERDICT This remarkable biography of a talented and determined man is highly recommended.

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