My Grandfather’s Son is a truly great modern book, because it encapsulates both the awfulness and the greatness of the USA in one man’s life story. Clarence Thomas grew up as the descendant of slaves, in a remote and poverty-stricken area which barely spoke English. He grew up without indoor plumbing, and subject to the awfulness of post-War racism. As a young man, Thomas’ peers were at risk of being lynched by mobs who would wrongly accuse young black men of various crimes, especially sex with young white women.
Despite the hardships and hurdles of his youth, Thomas overcame in a way that illustrates the greatness of the USA: a descendant of slaves was appointed to the nation’s highest court. Yet while he eventually overcame great prejudice, he was also the target of a false, vindictive, and horrible attempted “high-tech lynching” as the victim of repulsive character assassinations. His response to that abuse makes for a powerful message today to other young black men who may be falsely accused of wrong-doing.
His story is heart-breaking. As a young man, he was the target and victim of terrible racism. As a high-profile nominee to the Supreme Court to the United States, he was again targeted in a vile and reprehensive manner.
But Thomas prevailed. His autobiography, every word written by Thomas himself, reflects a man of great integrity, great capacity, and great faith that justice will be delivered and justice will be served. His writing is excellent and precise, as you would expect of a man who has been writing extensively under great scrutiny for almost as long as I have lived.
I quite liked this description of Thomas, which applies very well to his autobiography. This book is a very clearly-stated and clearly-written story of overcoming adversity and prejudice:
“I think Clarence Thomas is one of the least well-understood major figures in recent American history. In his autobiography, he acknowledges this in the beginning. And he says that he hopes that this book will do something to remedy that. Well, the book was published 15 years ago. It hasn’t. Perhaps it will take a little more time. It is a great book. But Clarence Thomas has an advantage in fact over some of the other judges at all levels, and an advantage over some of the other justices, in that he is entirely comprehensible. His position is clear, and it is expressed without compunction, or euphemism. Thomas will say out loud what he believes…There’s nothing about Thomas that is sinister or hidden or manipulative. His work stands for itself. He’s forthright in his opinions. He feels no need to hide his approach. And it’s notable.”Charles C W Cooke, The Editors Podcast, June 2022
This book is worth reading, so that you can benefit from learning the story of a human who was tempted, a human who was tested, and a human who overcame all that the forces of evil put before him.