There is no more powerful, detested, misunderstood African American in our public life than Clarence Thomas. Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas is a haunting portrait of an isolated and complex man, savagely reviled by much of the black community, not entirely comfortable in white society, internally wounded by his passage from a broken family and rural poverty in Georgia, to elite educational institutions, to the pinnacle of judicial power. His staunchly conservative positions on crime, abortion, and, especially, affirmative action have exposed him to charges of heartlessness and hypocrisy, in that he is himself the product of a broken home who manifestly benefited from racially conscious admissions policies.
Supreme Discomfort is a superbly researched and reported work that features testimony from friends and foes alike who have never spoken in public about Thomas before—including a candid conversation with his fellow justice and ideological ally, Antonin Scalia. It offers a long-overdue window into a man who straddles two different worlds and is uneasy in both—and whose divided personality and conservative political philosophy will deeply influence American life for years to come.
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.
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)