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My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir

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  • Posted September 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    An American Success Story

    I had read a previous biography of Clarence Thomas and assumed this would parallel that book. It obviously did follow the same outline but Mr. Thomas fills in the inner world he dealt with so honestly, I was amazed. He wasn't happy about the other biography and I assumed that he intended to write an even more positive view of himself, boy was I wrong. Mr. Thomas is so honest and vulnerable in his portrayal of himself it almost reads like a private journal where one might take themselves to the woodshed. Anyone who believes that this complicated man is a lap dog of the right, an "uncle tom" or anyother label you would want to put on him is grossly mistaken! One of the most facinating biographies that I have ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2008

    I represent my own self...

    My Grandfather's Son I read Clarence Thomas's autobiographical My Grandfather's Son some months after the first flush of publicity. The book is well worth reading, which is not to say that it won me over to Thomas's political views, or made me an admirer of his tenure in government. The early chapters provide a moving account of growing up impoverished in rural Georgia, subject to the pathological Jim Crow laws and customs of the time, which is as authentic as any other that has appeared in print. The book does establish that Thomas is a complex human being, a unique individual, as are we all. That is important. Nothing is more infuriating than being critiqued for something you are not, rather than for a life and a set of principles that one is proud of, even if others sharply disagree. Thomas is absolutely correct that he has a right to be his own self, not to conform to any expected orthodoxy based on his race, his sex, or any other irrelevant characteristic. In this, he is merely living up to Jesse B. Semple's defiant statement to his employer ''my boss is a white man'' who asks him 'What does The Negro want now?' Simple responds, many times over, 'I am not The Negro. I am this Negro. I represent my own self.' 'Taken from Langston Hughes's, Coffee Break. Thomas's rejection of a brand of so-called liberalism based on cheap stereotypes is a breath of fresh air. But his critique is missing a good deal of history, and his own account makes clear that, to those he adopted as his closest political allies, he was merely a convenient pawn, thrust into jobs he might indeed not have been well qualified to fill. Thomas knew that most of the inner circle in the Reagan administration were uninterested in offering anything to advance civil rights. 'By the end of my first year at the Department of Education, I took a dim view of the prospects for blacks in America. I no longer thought that the Reagan administration could do anything that would be of any help to them... Those of us who had chosen to work for President Reagan found it hard to shake the nagging feeling that this aides didn't trust us... Too many political appointees appeared to me to be too preoccupied with celebrating their own ideological credentials to pay attention to the needs of blacks. We hadn't voted for him, so why should they bother with us?' Ronald Reagan's plaintive phone call asking Thomas why African Americans considered him racist, and his protest that he personally had never been racist in his life, were no doubt sincere. But Reagan's administration, and his party, highlighted in Thomas's own words, provided the plain answer to the president's question. Thomas relates that he was shocked by Coretta Scott King's dismissal of Ronald Reagan, 'Well, he IS a Republican.' What did the Republican Party mean in 1980 for African Americans? As early as 1960, the limited-federal-government wing of the northern and western Republican Party had been finding common ground with the states' rights Dixiecrats still embedded in the Democratic Party. Between 1964 and 1980, the Republican Party had made an open bid to all racists dissatisfied with Democratic sponsorship of civil rights laws and federal intervention to change parties. Thomas may not have noticed that, because by his own description, it occured during a time when he was less than interested in electoral politics. But it was bitter history to most African Americans who observed it. Yes, there were Republicans who were instrumental in passing civil rights legislation. Considering the size of the southern Democratic bloc in congress, passage would have been impossible without those Republican votes. But, those Republicans were increasingly marginalized in their own party. There is no doubt that the Democratic Party took black votes for granted, had a very limited vision of what to offer black voters, and took their cue from an aging civil rights leadership, which could not fully recognize the changing

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2010

    An honest look into an amazing life

    After reading this book, I am in awe of Justice Thomas' achievements. This is a really inspiring story about a man who has risen to greatness despite such humble beginnings. I didn't pay much attention to his confirmation hearings when they went on, but I now really appreciate his path, his personal struggles, and the enormity of being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2007


    Although I do not subscribe to some of Justice Thomas' politics and legal decisions, I have a great appreciation now of how the core of this man was formed and how his thinking process was shaped. The book highlights many of the financial, social, and personal struggles Clarence encountered growing up, school-wise, and thru the SC nomination process. I particularly found it refreshing that he articulated his personal shortcomings, something that few of us are willing to admit. I found his story inspiring in that even those of us in the most dire of situations the U.S. can rise above it all. What I thought was missing was some discussion of the past 16-years of his life since he was confirmed to the Court. The foregoing may have shed some further light on the evolution of this man.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2007

    Eye Opener!

    This book certainly makes Clarence Thomas look like an intelligent, humorous man. From the image the media cast he was dry, boring, and unwilling to show his feelings on issues. Great book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2007

    amazing book

    A truly amazing book that captured my attention from page one, to the last.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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