The conservatism of the nation's second African-American Supreme Court justice has made him a pariah in the black community, an irony that centers this probing biography, expanded from the authors'Washington Post Magazine profile. Thomas's rise from disadvantaged circumstances to Yale Law School, a meteoric government career and appointment to Thurgood Marshall's Court seat, Merida and Fletcher note, seems an affirmative action success story. Yet Thomas has opposed affirmative action, prisoners' rights, abortion and other planks of the liberal agenda, leading to ubiquitous complaints—the authors cite black leaders, prison inmates, even Thomas's relatives—that he's forgotten his roots. Merida and Fletcher present a lucid, well-researched account of Thomas's controversial life and jurisprudence, including evidence supporting Anita Hill's sexual harassment allegations, and a nuanced discussion of the politics of black authenticity. They portray Thomas as a conflicted man: a committed conservative with an ethos of self-reliance, who took advantage of affirmative action only to have his achievements tarnished by his own insecurities and others' suspicions of incompetence or hypocrisy. The authors' attempts to link his convictions to his psyche—they make much of his alleged resentment of light-skinned black professional elites—don't always click, but Thomas still emerges as a fascinating and emblematic figure. (Mar. 20)
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Washington Post reporters Merida and Fletcher interviewed Supreme Court justice Thomas' family members, friends, colleagues, former clerks, fellow conservative justice Scalia, and even former President Bush, who named Thomas to the court--but not Thomas himself. This unauthorized biography looks at the complexities behind the second black Supreme Court justice, the conservative who replaced the iconic civil rights defender Thurgood Marshall. The authors dissect the contradictions in Thomas' background: the careful campaign that harkened back to boyhood poverty, when Thomas mostly grew up middle class; the transformation of a campus radical into a conservative and avowed opponent of affirmative action. Beyond recalling Thomas' background, the authors delve into how Thomas was formed by the tumultuous period of desegregation and emerging radical black consciousness. Thomas' wounds are deep, evidenced in a box of rejection letters from law firms he continues to keep. Reviled by the black community and virtually an outsider in his own family, Thomas maintains an animated persona among black conservatives but is known for his silence and disengagement on the bench. The authors explore the dynamics behind the nomination of Thomas and the dramatic hearing that drew national attention as senators squirmed while parsing charges of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Thomas' "high-tech lynching" remark, which turned the hearing, was scripted for a man who'd chosen to distance himself from racial identification. This is a thoroughly absorbing look at a conflicted man whose views will impact American law and race relations for generations. Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Sometimes views diverge widely. The "quota system" is seen by Thomas as questioning his abilities to achieve on his own merit. Read morePublished 18 months ago by rose 3
A decent book but it still didn't give me any real insight as to why this man "hates himself so much"...Published 21 months ago by Kirk Henry
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I bought this book because it was the book that our book club choose to read that month. I kind of knew what kind of person Clarence was, but this book just really confirmed it.Published on February 23, 2011 by Jewels
There is perhaps no other Supreme Court Justice is recent memory who has remained as enigmatic and inscrutable as Justice Clarence Thomas. Read morePublished on January 12, 2010 by Todd Bartholomew
Clarence Thomas is an enigma. Reportedly garrulous and engaging with people he trusts, on the Court he is notoriously silent and disengaged, playing with a pencil, cleaning his... Read morePublished on July 24, 2009 by Robert Carlberg
Rather than repeat what many of the reviews have said, I would just say that the focus should be on some of the cases decided by the Supreme Court and where Justice Thomas fits in... Read morePublished on March 20, 2009 by Ricardo Salas
The authors show how Thomas is divided to the point of having a compartmentalized personality. This is especially, but by no means limited to, his use of sexual language, as... Read morePublished on August 10, 2008 by S. J. Snyder
In Supreme Discomfort the authors Merida and Fletcher try hard to create a biography of Justice Thomas based on interviews with childhood associates, former classmates, extended... Read morePublished on June 29, 2008 by M. F. Gloger