Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World Sonia Sotomayor
Published: January 15, 2013
ISBN-10: 0307594882
Genre: Memoir
Highly Recommended

Summary (from Amazon.com):
The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.

Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself.  She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.

My thoughts:
For me, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has always stood out—not because she is a woman and not because she is Hispanic.  If you look at a picture of the Justices, amid the sea of old guys and the sort of subdued-looking Justices Bader-Ginsburg and Kagan, you’ll notice a wide. beaming smile from a Justice in the back row.  I’m not sure Justices are supposed to smile like that, but it certainly sets Sotomayor apart from the rest.

Then, Justice Sotomayor started showing up on Sesame Street:


How can you not love that?

In January, I heard an interview with Justice Sotomayor on NPR where she discussed her love of reading and how, as a child, books saved her during some dark times.  Then they said she had published a memoir and, ten minutes later, I had downloaded it for my Kindle.

I’m always a little wary of memoirs.  Just because someone has a moving story does not mean they can write.  And just because someone can write doesn’t mean they have a story to tell.  Luckily, Sotomayor has a compelling story and is able to tell it with an authentic voice.

Sotomayor’s early years, with her “Big, Fat, Puerto Rican Family” read like a novel.  From her relationship with her grandmother, to her father’s death, to her mother’s retreat, Sotomayor’s early life can compete with any epic novel.  I almost—almost—forgot that this woman would be appointed to the highest court in the land and, instead, wondered if she’d make it through high school.

But she did and, once she headed off to Princeton, the story takes a turn.  We can see how each decision Sotomayor made took her one step closer to her goals.  Her life was not easy and it is obvious that, while some opportunities were within her reach thanks to affirmative action, it was her own hard work, determination and pure pluck that got her to where she is.

Before I read My Beloved World, I admired Sonia Sotomayor.  Now, I consider her one of my personal heroes.


My Beloved World
by Sonia Sotomayor
Powells.com

1 comment:

  1. Love Sesame Street--she sounds like a very deep individual--you may have just convinced me to actually read an autobiography.

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