an enjoyable autobiography

A Book Review in Brief

My Grandfather’s Son
Clarence Thomas

If you are like me and grew up in the 1990’s in southern New Hampshire, you probably don’t have a very good feel for what it’s like to grow up black in rural Georgia prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So it was with great interest that I read My Grandfather’s Son, a very personal memoir from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The book is a very candid exposition of his life that moves from his youth spent in Pin Point, Georgia to his appointment to the Supreme Court. Readers of all stripes stand to gain something from reading Justice Thomas’s story, because fundamentally it is about the good life. Good principles, Thomas says, are essential to the good life. Equally important is actually living out those principles – we must habituate the good and suffer the bad with dignity.

So what are these principles? Quite simply they are the traditional moral virtues – honesty, perseverance, courage, temperance, honesty, self-control, forbearance and so on. These ideas, for Thomas, are not mere platitudes. They are exemplified by his Grandfather, a farmer dedicated to God, family and hard work. As Thomas tells it, throughout his life, his Grandfather was a consistent voice of sanity and wisdom. It was his voice that eventually led him away from the radicalism of his youth. It was his principles and the way he lived his life that forced Thomas to change his own. Richard John Neuhaus has written somewhere that “The truth is that we do not judge the truth; the truth judges us.” This maxim proves itself in the course of Thomas’ story. And so he formed and reformed his life in light of the truth and wrote a great book to teach us.

- Zach

(for a wildly different take, read Dahlia Lithwick at Slate)

No comments: