It is the chronicle of a complicated and unusual life, accompanied by reflections on that life by a complicated and unusual man. Reading it is a powerful experience. Born a very poor black in a very poor community in the Jim Crow South, Thomas was raised by his tough and deeply decent grandparents. He went through a bizarre period in a Catholic seminary and, after that, radical years at college and law school. He ended up in government service in Washington. Supposedly, according to his liberal critics, he was the beneficiary of affirmative action, but any sensitive reading of this book makes clear that nothing came easily to Thomas.
Then after difficult but successful years in Washington, both at the Justice Department and at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, he emerged as a conservative. I take this as proof that Thomas never wanted things to come easily. One of the reasons that so few things came easily to Thomas (he tells us athletics came pretty easily to him) is that usually he has insisted on thinking things out, with a powerful aptitude for reasoning and a critical streak that doubtless he got from his tough-minded grandfather. Another reason that nothing came easily is that he is black and up from poverty. That last reason is known by all, but after reading this book, I came away very much aware that Thomas' powers of ratiocination are first-rate. He is just the kind of person we want on the Supreme Court.