Monday, October 8, 2007

The Book Review

The Clarence Thomas memoir "My Grandfather's Son" was released on Tuesday (10-02-2007) and from what I can tell sales aren't too shabby. It sold out at our spot pretty quick. I didn't buy (I just couldn't do it y'all) it but I did read it. The book chronicle's the life of the Supreme Court Justice and traces his roots from his rural Georgia boyhood to his move to Savannah to live with his mother's father at age 7 as his mother struggled to raise them on 10 dollars a week that she earned as a maid when his father and she divorced. He talks of his Grandfather who he called "Daddy" as man with a strict work ethic who suffered many injustices in the Jim Crow south. the journey from his "humble beginnings" to his time at The college of the Holy Cross and Yale Law School culminating in his contested confirmation to The Supreme Court. The memoir includes his insights on how he achieved his success and how he wishes to pass on to a younger generation what his grandfather passed on to him as he (Thomas) raises his great nephew.

My reactions to this memoir—

Let me preface this with the admission that I read “Supreme Discomfort” by Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher about Thomas, when it came out and a few key quotes include

“But the truth is that Thomas' rise was never anchored in Pin Point, as White House advisers led the public to believe. His family's house had burned down when he was 6, and for most of his young life he was raised comfortably in Savannah by his grandfather Myers Anderson, one of the black community's leading businessmen.”

Well at the beginning Thomas comes right out of the gate with the poor black child who came up from little to nothing. Okay, I dig this. His grandfather was a fascinating and interesting figure and honestly I wished that the memoir had been about him rather than Thomas. Yes I have my biases but this business he writes about knowing that he didn’t get to where he is alone really blew me away. From what I could tell of his public life and very public opinions he did everything on his own and if he did benefit from any sort of outside couldn’t really be sure if that was the case or not.

Funny, because in this memoir every third word is "black". It seemed to me that he was trying to convince us and himself that he is indeed a black man. The amazing thing to me is that for all of the injustices and bigotry he endured (as chronicled in his memoir) he tends to speak publicly as if nothing of the sort exists anymore. Unless of course it is his own "High Tech Lynching"although he does write in his book that the Franciscan nuns of his youth taught him that God created all men including black men, equal. Then on the heels of the statement there is a picture of a Klan rally in his town which he read of in the paper but didn’t attend because "we knew better than to go near such events".

Right. But he goes on to say that a white classmate in high school wrote in his yearbook "Keep on trying Clarence, one day you will be as good as us" and he was confused about whether the statement was racist or not. WHAT?

He didn't know what they meant by that, he writes. Really? I find that hard to believe based on the fact that his entire memoir is about how his blackness was ALWAYS an issue when dealing with whites and blacks in any job he had or any school he attended. I mean he talks of segregated bathrooms, black shanty towns and being called the"n" word by classmates.... the book offers many of these contradictions...

The narrative is so meticulous in its delivery that you can tell that it was written by a lawyer making sure to tie up loose ends. (I know, I know this is specious reasoning on my part but then I said I was biased)

Okay I am not a fan of Clarence Thomas so maybe I shouldn't have read the book and shouldn't be writing this review but here I am.

Damn-it if he didn't ride my nerves with the constant diatribes about his grassroots idealism until the militant blacks soured him on the notions. It seemed as if Everything he did that was defeatist and fatalist he learned from blackness (drinking, inciting riots, and general trouble making). All references to mismanagement in welfare and in welfare recipients were black operated or utilized largely by blacks.

The one sentence that stuck out as his mantra was "I was not intimidated by whites" and it was always presented as a contrast to some other poor black person who was. Not him though. Which is odd since he constantly talked about the discomfort of being the only black in a sea of whites his whole life.

Oh, did he mention that he was black y'all and that blacks in the south had it rough? He was descended from West African slaves (yeah, that's right! Slaves so put that in your pipe and smoke it) and he spoke Gullah and everybody hated his African features (even blacks) and people called him names and the Klan marched and he had concerns as the only black student in an all white school (oh wait he wasn't poor anymore, well not since he was 6 but still...he was black--and not intimidated!).
Oh and uhm he voted for McGovern, so there! But then later he wised up, went Republican and rode Reagan's jock with a vengeance. Okay so that was unnecessary!

Did he mention that he did have a moment where he wondered if blacks really could do as wells as whites? Eek--Maybe they couldn't!(gasp).. Maybe white supremacy was actually true....WTF? But don't worry, whites didn't intimidate him remember..

Okay he didn't know when someone was dissing him because he was black unless they said the "N" word --- and he always knew that he could do what he set out to do because of the strength of his grandfather--- but then maybe blacks weren't academically up to the level of whites (he doesnt mention their 400 year head start or their Jim Crow antics or the separate but equal nonsense that must have had a place in rural Georgia, and later Savannah and Atlanta). Annoyed doesn't begin to describe what I felt as I trudged through this book! I don't care for the "N" word but I honestly wanted to say out the side of my mouth "Psshhh, Look at this "N" word..."

Oh yeah and uhm Uncle Clarence says that Regan was deeply hurt by the fact that blacks had labeled him a racist...awww they found us out...

Guess what? He was always conflicted by working within a system with serious issues on both sides. He tried to take those positions and parlay them into something that would help black people. See? he's totally down with us... Enter the infamous Coke can incident---

His portrayal of Anita Hill as the quintessential black bitch always wanting something from a brother was tired and from my point of view contrived. Nice try. His book claims that she got your job with him through one of those "help a sister out"hook-ups which he agreed to, even though she wasnt a Republican and she claimed to have "detested" Reagan.

Get this, he mentions that she left her previous employment because of retaliation from a boss whose advances she refuses. Check the set-up y'all... He helped her because he had always been driven by the need to help his people. And of course she was only adequate at her job, poor Uncle C! All he wanted to do was help and what happened? Black women! Watch yo' back America--you know how we do...whatever "N" word! See I wrote it again.

Well then he had to leave his wife because as I mentioned before everything that had sucked in his life was black so she had to go... All right thats unfair, this marriage had him drinking and hating life (he knew he had made a mistake on his wedding day---DAMN! He probably should of told her that shit before he had her living a busted existence with his wishy-washy behind!)

What I do fine genuine is fascination with his current wife Virginia. "I'd grown up in the Deep South, where merely being seen with a white woman was enough to get a black man lynched, but I was fascinated by Virginia, an old fashioned idealist whom Washington’s cynics had not yes managed too spoil." The paragraph goes on to talk about her goodness and how she was single in a tough city (thank God he was there to look after her purity) oh don’t worry he "knew that this was no fetish-laden intrigue with a woman of another race, but a gift from God."

For all her innocence I read in "Supreme Discomfort" that almost no one from her family knew he was black until they showed up at the wedding....awww --that purity must have been difficult for him to deserve.

Look I ain't gonna lie, this book left me sucking my teeth and rolling my neck...I suppose a personal memoir cant help but be arrogant but this was just too much for me.

He came off as the hypocrite I feel he is in real life and so at least there were no surprises...UGH! He reminds me of a few other black pseudo-intellectuals who tout there own misfortunes and discount the misfortunes of others routinely. No-one has suffered as they have you see and all those other folks should buck up while we all feel sorry for them....double UGH!

Bill Cosby's book "COME ON, PEOPLE! ON THE PATH FROM VICTIMS TO VICTORS" comes out Tomorrow and I plan to read it and write a review of it as well...

I have to cleanse my pallet after that Thomas mess and so I will be reading Ultimates Vol. One for my Sci-Fi, Nick Fury fix! Peace...


Torrance Stephens bka All-Mi-T said...

he been in papers and on the news too murch 4 me. But I wonder why he dont talk about what legacy he wants t leave for his grandchildren . we know he was raised by his grand dad

Femigog said...

Good Question!

Anonymous said...

Clarence Thomas’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court is a shinning example of Affirmative Action at its worst. His appointment has tainted the Supreme Court because of his inferior intellect, and lack of experience. He should be ashamed of himself – everyone else is!

dc_speaks said...

@anon: ouch and I concur!

Mega Rich said...

That Tom of a House Negro will get none of my money - at least not by way of book sales. To think, my tax dollars help pay for that sellout.