From Publishers Weekly
Thomas (no relation to his subject), a sympathetic conservative author (Crime and the Sacking of America), delivers a biography curiously at odds with itself. The first two chapters, covering several centuries of local and family history, follow Clarence Thomas's self-mythologizing strategy whereby he portrayed himself as a black Horatio Alger from the segregated South when he was undergoing scrutiny as a Supreme Court nominee. Though lacking rich detail, the account of the justice's early life is engaging. Justice Thomas's grandfather's grinding work-ethic response to racism sowed the seeds of deeply enduring conflicts that neither Thomas nor this biographer appear to have examined. At Yale Law School (one of several affirmative action boons Thomas both exploited and resented, as this volume affirms), he eschewed theoretical studies for commercial law. After clerking at a civil rights law firm, he unsuccessfully sought work elsewhere before becoming a diversity hire of Missouri Attorney General John Danforth. Reagan's need for black conservatives to reverse the civil rights agenda gained Thomas two successive plum assignments the last as head of the EEOC before Bush appointed him first to the D.C. Court of Appeals, then to the Supreme Court. His special, fast-track treatment and apparent lack of preparation for this post are made painfully evident here. The author acknowledges the justice's evident periodic dishonesty and deep self-pity, citing the "dark side" of Thomas's political abilities as "a disingenuousness that sometimes seeped into dishonesty." Anita Hill and every liberal in sight are dutifully trashed, and major substantive criticisms of Thomas are ignored. Though the author (a graduate of Harvard Law School who has written for the Weekly Standard and the National Review) offers exaggerated outbursts of praise (for a man who "[put] his head down and charg[ed] through life as an independent moral agent... a free man"), he portrays a spoiled, bitter, insincere man. Photos not seen by PW. (For another take on Thomas, see Silent Justice, by John Greenya, reviewed on p.82)
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The tenth anniversary of Clarence Thomas' appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court has already produced one biography: John Greenya's Silent Justice: The Clarence Thomas Story
[BKL S 1 01]. Like Greenya, Thomas was unable to convince his subject to agree to one or more interviews. Instead, he relies on archival research into Justice Thomas' early life and education and the progressively more demanding government positions he served in after law school, along with interviews with relatives, friends, coworkers, former law clerks, and fellow conservatives. Recommend this biography to readers who consider Justice Thomas a hero (or, like President Bush, one of the best current members of the Court). Author Thomas dishes dirt about Anita Hill (one charge seems to be a poor work ethic) to establish a context for her role in the Senate hearings considering Thomas' appointment. Because of the controversy surrounding his nomination, it may take a generation before we see a truly objective biography of Clarence Thomas. Mary CarrollCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved