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Supreme Discomfort


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About the Author

KEVIN MERIDA is an associate editor at the Washington Post. He has been a national political reporter for the paper, a feature writer for its "Style" section, and a columnist for the Post's Sunday magazine. In 2000 he was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists. MICHAEL A. FLETCHER covers the White House for the Washington Post, where he has been a reporter since 1995. He has previously covered education and race relations, chronicling issues including the racial achievement gap, racial profiling, criminal justice disparities, and the battle over the future of affirmative action.


Clarence Thomas has generated controversy ever since his appointment to succeed Thurgood Marshall on the Supreme Court in 1991. He is criticized as unqualified for his position, as being indifferent toward African Americans, and as a "clone" of his colleague Antonin Scalia. In spite of this controversy, Thomas is largely a mystery. In this biography, Merida and Fletcher, associate editor and reporter, respectively, at the Washington Post, explore Thomas's life and career from his roots in rural Georgia to the present. The authors are sympathetic to Thomas as a man without glossing over the controversy that surrounds him. They discuss at length his difficult relationship with his mother and sister, both of whom they were able to interview. (Thomas himself declined to be interviewed for this book.) For their chapter on Anita Hill's famous testimony at Thomas's Senate confirmation hearings, Merida and Fletcher interviewed parties on each side of the issue (though not Hill herself) but do not speculate whether Hill's allegations were true. They do relate evidence of Thomas's interest in pornography before his confirmation to the Court. All in all, this is a thoughtful and evenhanded treatment; recommended for all libraries.-Becky Kennedy, Atlanta-Fulton P.L., GA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Advance Praise for Supreme Discomfort:
"Clarence Thomas, even as the quiet justice, is a clanging symbol of politics and race in our time. I can't think of two writers I'd rather have cut through the cacophony of the Thomas mythology than Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher. In Supreme Discomfort, they have found the divided soul that divides a nation." --David Maraniss, author of First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton

"Scrupulously fair and endlessly entertaining. Supreme Discomfort by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher is the definitive work on the Supreme Court's most elusive--and fascinating--personality." --Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Run of His Life and Too Close to Call, legal affairs analyst for CNN, and staff writer at The New Yorker. "An engrossing biography of a conflicted man . . . [Merida and Fletcher] have done a superb job with this both harsh and sympathetic life of Clarence Thomas . . . an unflinching look at success and race in America." --Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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