Fletcher, Michael A.
Fletcher, Michael A.
Office—Washington Post, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, DC 20071.
Writer, journalist, and biographer. Washington Post, Washington, DC, reporter, 1995—.
Michael A. Fletcher is a journalist and biographer who has worked at the Washington Post since 1995. While working at the Post, Fletcher has covered topics in education and race relations, including racial profiling, the controversies over affirmative action, the gap in achievement between minorities and whites, and race-based disparities in the criminal justice system, noted a Random House Web site biographer.
In Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, Fletcher and coauthor Kevin Merida trace the life and professional career of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, only the second African American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Though Fletcher and Merida remain fully conscious of the flaws and the strengths of Thomas throughout the book, they ‘are sympathetic to Thomas as a man without glossing over the controversy that surrounds him,’ observed Becky Kennedy in a Library Journal review. The authors ‘have done a superb job with this both harsh and sympathetic life of Clarence Thomas,’ a book that emerges as ‘an unflinching look at success and race in America,’ commented a Kirkus Reviews critic.
Fletcher and Merida begin with Thomas's youth in the tiny rural town of Pin Point, Georgia, and continue through his formative days, identifying the events and experiences that helped shape his thoughts and attitudes. The book is based on many interviews with Thomas's friends, colleagues, and family members (though Thomas himself declined to participate), and it ‘contains an abundance of personal anecdotes that paint an intriguing portrait of a polarizing legal figure,’ observed Brian Baxter in an American Lawyer review. For example, the authors point out how Thomas, a dark-skinned black, was tormented by lighter-skinned African Americans, and came to resent the scorn and ridicule directed toward him by both whites and light-skinned blacks. Though Thomas had originally intended to enter the clergy and become a Roman Catholic priest, spending a year studying at Holy Cross Seminary, he changed his career goals to law, gaining admittance to the Yale Law School in 1971. Yet he was gravely troubled by the fact that he received no job offers after graduating from this prestigious school; Fletcher and Merida reveal how he still keeps a box full of rejection letters from this time period. The authors also explore Thomas's opposition to affirmative action, which they find contradictory since Thomas himself fully benefited from the race-based advantage afforded by affirmative action. They also recount his many professional struggles, including the contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearing, which was marred by an allegation of sexual harassment by former legal aide Anita Hill, and the often negative opinion of the black community of his conservative ‘originalist’ interpretation of legal and constitutional matters.
Fletcher and Merida also find much to admire about Thomas, both personally and as a judge. They note his well-known gregariousness, sense of humor, personal warmth, and genuine concern for his staff. They note his rapid professional advancement during the Reagan presidency. They trace his well-known silence on the bench to ridicule he suffered as a child because of his Coastal Georgia accent, but note how he managed to lose the accent over the years. ‘Though widely reviled in the abstract, he is almost invariably beloved by anyone who has met him in person,’ observed Heather Elliott in the Legal Times.
"The Washington Post staffers who undertook this copiously researched book do make a convincing case as to how race, combined with his jurisprudence, is the main driver in Thomas' inability to feel completely at ease in his skin,’ commented reviewer Dan Levine in the Recorder. Kennedy concluded that the book is a ‘thoughtful and evenhanded’ consideration of Thomas and his life. ‘Merida and Fletcher present a lucid, well-researched account of Thomas's controversial life and jurisprudence,’ noted a Publishers Weekly contributor. Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush stated: ‘This is a thoroughly absorbing look at a conflicted man whose views will impact American law and race relations for generations.’ The book ‘remains invaluable for any understanding of the court's most controversial figure,’ stated New York Times Book Review critic Orlando Patterson. Merida and Fletcher present their biography in ‘readable journalistic prose,’ commented Walter Barthold in the New York Law Journal. Barthold concluded: ‘Whether they have solved the mystery of Clarence Thomas or not, they deserve credit for having assembled all of the available clues."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ABA Journal, April, 2007, Richard Brust, ‘The Strong, Silent Type,’ p. 16.
American Lawyer, August, 2007, Brian Baxter, review of Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, p. 68.
Biography, summer, 2007, Orlando Patterson, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 447.
Booklist, January 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 21.
Campaigns & Elections, June, 2007, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 76.
Economist, June 2, 2007, ‘Their Majesties; The Supreme Court,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 94.
Essence, May, 2007, Patrik Henry Bass, ‘Blind Justice: Our Books Editor Lands an Exclusive Interview with the Authors of Supreme Discomfort, the Surprising New Expose about One of America's Most Controversial Black Men,’ interview with Michael A. Fletcher and Kevin Merida, p. 96.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2007, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 64.
Legal Intelligencer, June 15, 2007, Heather Elliott, ‘Supreme Discomfort Profiles the Justice Who Doesn't Fit In,’ review of Supreme Discomfort.
Legal Times, May 28, 2007, Heather Elliott, review of Supreme Discomfort.
Library Journal, March 15, 2007, Becky Kennedy, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 82.
National Review, May 14, 2007, Edgard Whelan, ‘Supreme Bias,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 49.
New Jersey Law Journal, August 8, 2007, Heather Elliott, review of Supreme Discomfort.
Newsweek, April 30, 2007, Ellis Cose, ‘Still Keeping Score; Clarence Thomas Remains Bitter about His Confirmation Hearings. A New Book Explains Why He Won't Let It Go,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 50.
New York Law Journal, August 15, 2007, Walter Barthold, review of Supreme Discomfort.
New York Times Book Review, June 17, 2007, Orlando Patterson, ‘Thomas Agonistes,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 1.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 2007, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 43.
Recorder, August 31, 2007, Dan Levine, ‘A Justice Uneasy in His Own Skin,’ review of Supreme Discomfort.
USA Today, May 1, 2007, DeWayne Wickham, ‘Blacks Can't Shake Doubting Thomas,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 11.
Washington Post Book World, April 1, 2007, review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 9; April 22, 2007, Kenji Yoshino, ‘Doubting Thomas,’ review of Supreme Discomfort, p. 5.
National Public Radio,http://www.npr.org/ (April 20, 2007), Michele Norris, ‘Powerful Yet Despised: Clarence Thomas' Story,’ transcript of ‘All Things Considered’ radio interview with Michael A. Fletcher and Kevin Merida.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (October 28, 2007), biography of Michael Fletcher.