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An instant American iconâ€”the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Courtâ€”tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir. With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.'s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. 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-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father.
About The Author SONIA SOTOMAYOR graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976, and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. From 1992 to 2009,
she served as a judge on the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and from 1998, on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.
Reviews The New York Times Book Review - Emily Bazelon
"I've spent my whole life learning how to do things that were hard for me," Sotomayor tells an acquaintanceâ €¦when he asks whether becoming a judge will be difficult for her. Yes, she has. And by the time you close My Beloved World, you understand how she has mastered judging, tooâ€¦this book delivers on its promise of intimacy in its depictions of Sotomayor's family, the corner of Puerto Rican immigrant New York where she was raised and the link she feels to the island where she spent childhood summers eating her fill of mangoesâ€¦This is a woman who knows where she comes from and has the force to bring you there. The New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
â€¦if the outlines of Justice Sotomayor's life are well known by now, her searching and emotionally intimate memoirâ€¦nonetheless has the power to surprise and move the readerâ€¦this account of her life is revealing, keenly observed and deeply felt. The book sheds little new light on how she views issues that might come before the Supreme Courtâ€¦but it stands very much on its ownâ€”not unlike Barack Obama's first book, Dreams From My Fatherâ€”as a compelling and powerfully written memoir about identity and coming of ageâ€¦It's an eloquent and affecting testament to the triumph of brains and hard work over circumstance, of a childhood dream realized through extraordinary will and dedication. Publishers Weekly
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, born poor in the South Bronx and appointed to the federal bench as its first Hispanic justice, recounts numerous obstacles and remarkable achievements in this personal and inspiring autobiography. Her path to the highest court in the land was rife with difficulties, but it wasnâ€™t circuitousâ€”from an early age, Sotomayor was determined to become a lawyer. To reach her goal she overcame diabetes, the language barrier (her Puerto Rican family spoke Spanish at home), the early death of her beloved alcoholic father, andâ€”in the academic and professional worldsâ€”the disparaging of minorities. In some respects, her storyâ€”that of a second-generation immigrant rallying familial support, educational opportunities, and plenty of ambition and discipline to realize the American dreamâ€”is familiar, but her extraordinary success makes her experience noteworthy. Sotomayor is clear-eyed about the factors and people that helped her succeed, and she is open about her personal failures, foremost among them an unsuccessful marriage. Regardless of political philosophies, readers across the board will be moved by this intimate look at the life of a justice. 16 pages of photos. Announced first printing: 200,000. Agent: Peter Bernstein, Bernstein Literary Agency. (Jan. 16) Library Journal
In this revealing memoir, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor candidly and gracefully recounts her formative years growing up in the South Bronx in "a tiny microcosm of Hispanic New York City," among an extended family of Puerto Rican immigrants. Her descriptions of the neighborhoods, relatives, and routines of those years are vital, loving, and incisive, as she traces her growth into adulthood, and examines both strengths and failings. She then moves on to her decision to apply to Ivy League colleges, the challenges of coping with unfamiliar environments, her education at Princeton (with the library as her refuge), and her education and career as a lawyer, assistant district attorney, and newly appointed judge in 1992, at which point she draws to a close. Throughout, Sotomayor summons forth the stories that influenced her drive and character, while also painting evocative portraits of scenes and loved ones long gone. An early example: diagnosed as diabetic at age seven, Sotomayor quickly saw that household volatility meant she must be responsible for her own insulin injections; her memoir shows both her continued self-reliance and her passion for community. VERDICT Sure to be in demand. Recommended for all readers from advanced junior high on up.â€”Margaret Heilbrun, Library Journal
Graceful, authoritative memoir from the country's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. As a child in South Bronx public housing, Sotomayor was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. Her Puerto Rican parents' struggles included a father's battle with alcoholism that would claim his life when Sotomayor was 9, leaving her mother, a former Women's Army Corps soldier turned nurse, to raise her. Time spent with her cousin, Catholic school friends and her beloved grandmother helped to calm the chaos of life in the projects. As Sotomayor entered adolescence, her mother's strong belief in education spurred the author to thrive in school and develop an appreciation for justice and the law. The author vividly narrates her scholarly adventures at Princeton, where she advocated for Latino faculty, and Yale Law School, where she dealt with smaller cases in preparation for the complexities of work in the district attorney's office. In 1992, she received an appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The author's text forms a cultural patchwork of memories and reflections as she mines the nuances of her parents' tumultuous relationship, fondly recalls family visits in Puerto Rico and offers insight on a judicial career that's just beginning when the memoir ends. Sotomayor writes that her decision (a shrewd one) to close her story early is based on both a political career she feels is "still taking shape" and a dignified reluctance to expand upon any recent high court "political drama," regardless of the general public's insatiable curiosity. Mature, life-affirmative musings from a venerable life shaped by tenacity and pride. From the Publisher
â€œA compelling and powerfully written memoir about identity and coming of ageâ€¦If the outlines of Justice Sotomayorâ€™s life are well known by now, her searching and emotionally intimate memoir, My Beloved World, nonetheless has the power to surprise and move the readerâ€¦This account of her life is revealing, keenly observed and deeply feltâ€¦This insightful memoir underscores just how well Justice Sotomayor mastered the art of narrative. Itâ€™s an eloquent and affecting testament to the triumph of brains and hard work over circumstance, of a childhood dream realized through extraordinary will and dedication.â€ â€”Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"The book delivers on its promise of intimacy in its depictions of Sotomayor's family, the corner of Puerto Rican immigrant New York where she was raised and the link she feels to the island where she spent childhood summers â €¦This is a woman who knows where she comes from and has the force to bring you there. Sotomayor does this by being cleareyed about the flaws of the adults who raised herâ€”she lets them be complicatedâ€¦'I've spent my whole life learning how to do things that were hard for me,' Sotomayor tells an acquaintance when he asks whether becoming a judge will be difficult for her. Yes, she has. And by the time you close My Beloved World, you understand how she has mastered judging, too." â€”Emily Bazelon, The New York Times Book Review "With buoyant humor and thoughtful candor, she recounts her rise from a crime-infested neighborhood in the South Bronx to the nation's highest court. 'I will be judged as a human being by what readers find here,' Sotomayor writes. We, the jury in this case, find her irresistible." â€”John Wilwol, Washingtonian "Sotomayor turns out to be a writer of depth and literary flairâ€¦My Beloved World is steeped in vivid memories of New York City, and it is an exceptionally frank account of the challenges that she faced during her ascent from a public housing project to the court's marble palace on First Street." â€”Adam Liptak, The New York Times "You'll see in Sotomayor a surprising wealth of candor, wit, and affection. No topic is off limits, not her diabetes, her father's death, her divorce, or her cousin's death from AIDS. Put the kettle on, reader, it's time for some real talk with Titi Soniaâ€¦The author shines in her passages on childhood, family, and self-discovery. Her magical portraits of loved ones bring to mind Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street; both authors bring a sense of childlike wonder and empathy to a world rarely seen in books, a Latin-American and womancentric world." â€”Grace Bello, Christian Science Monitor
â€œThis is a page-turner, beautifully written and novelistic in its tale of family, love and triumph. It hums with hope and exhilaration. This is a story of human triumph.â€ â€”Nina Totenberg, NPR "Big-heartedâ€¦A powerful defense of empathyâ€¦She has spent her life imagining her way into the hearts of everyone around herâ€¦Anyone wondering how a child raised in public housing, without speaking English, by an alcoholic father and a largely absent mother could become the first Latina on the Supreme Court will find the answer in these pages. It didn't take just a village: It took a country." â€”Dahlia Lithwick, The Washington Post â€œMy Beloved Worldâ€ is filled with inspiring, and surprisingly candid, stories about how the Supreme Courtâ€™s first Hispanic justice overcame a troubled childhood to attend Princeton and Yale Law School, eventually earning a seat on the nationâ€™s highest court.â€ â€”Carla Main, Wall Street Journal "Remarkableâ€¦A portrait of a genuinely interesting person." â€”Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast "In a refreshing conversational style, Sotomayor tells her fascinating life story with the hope of providing â€œcomfort, perhaps even inspirationâ€ to others, particularly children, who face hard times. â€œPeople who live in difficult circumstances,â€ Sotomayor writes in her preface, â€œneed to know that happy endings are possible." â€”Jay Wexler, Boston Globe "Classic Sotomayor: intelligent, gregarious and at times disarmingly personalâ€¦A portrait of an underprivileged but brilliant young woman who makes her way into the American elite and does her best to reform it from the insideâ€¦I certainly hope My Beloved World inspires readers to chase their dreams." â€”Jason Farago, NPR â€œVital, loving, and incisiveâ€¦In this revealing memoir, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor candidly and gracefully recounts her formative years. Her memoir shows both her continued self-reliance and her passion for community.â€ â€”Library Journal (Starred review) â€œJustice Sotomayor recounts numerous obstacles and remarkable achievements in this personal and inspiring autobiographyâ€¦Readers across the board will be moved by this intimate look at the life of a justice.â€ â€”Publishers Weekly â€œAmazingly candidâ€¦ an intimate and honest look at her extraordinary life and the support and blessings that propelled her forward.â€ â€”Booklist (Starred review) â€œGraceful, authoritative memoirâ€¦Mature, life-affirming musings from a venerable life shaped by tenacity and pride.â€ â€”Kirkus Reviews
Sonia Sotomayor has guts to tell her story. Her parents had difficulties that affected her. I thought, how did Sonia make it with an alcoholic dad and a depressed mom? I realized her grandma and extended family gave her enough love to make Sonia not question her own worth as a human being. So if you take away only one thing, please let it be that we should always be a source of inspiration for kids who may not have it easy. You just don't know where kindness toward a child can lead! What a beautiful story Sonia has given us.
Nice to know that you can do what ever your heart desires if you really want it. Her puerto rican pride comes through in every page, and she doesn't hide her struggles to the top. Makes me wish i should of done more in my life. And even with her success she is still Sonia!
I cannot say enough about this book and was able to relate, as i beleive so many can. I had the privilege of meeting Judge Sotomayor at her booksigning at B&N. She is the real thing and thanked people for waiting almost 4 hours to see her. Vaya con Dios, Judge Sotomayor.
Read An Excerpt My Beloved World By Sonia Sotomayor Knopf Copyright Â© 2013 Sonia Sotomayor All right reserved. ISBN: 9780307594884
From Chapter 11 I was working my way through the summer reading list when Lord of the Flies brought me to a halt. I wasnâ€™t ready to start another book when I finished that one. Iâ€™d never read anything so layered with meaning: it haunted me, and I needed to think about it some more. But I didnâ€™t want to spend the whole break doing nothing but reading and watching TV. Junior was happy shooting baskets all the daylight hours, but there wasnâ €™t much else going on around the projects if you were too old for the playground and not into drugs. Orchard Beach still beckoned, roasting traffic and all, but getting there was a trek you couldnâ€™t make every day. Besides, without Abuelitaâ€™s laugh and the anticipation of her overgenerous picnic in the trunk, without Gallego gunning the engine of a car packed with squirming kids, somehow it just wasnâ€™t the same. So I decided to get a job. Mami and Titi Carmen were sitting in Abuelitaâ€™s kitchen over coffee when I announced my plan. There were no shops or businesses in the projects, but maybe I could find someone to hire me in Abuelitaâ€™s old neighborhood. Titi Carmen still lived on Southern Boulevard and worked nearby at United Bargains. The momandpop stores under the El wouldnâ€™t hire kidsâ€”leaning on family labor rather than paying a strangerâ€”but the bigger retailers along Southern Boulevard might. I proposed to walk down the street and inquire in each one. â€œDonâ€™t do that,â€ said Titi Carmen. â€œLet me ask Angie.â€ Angie was Titi Carmenâ €™s boss. My mother meanwhile looked stricken and bit her lip. She didnâ€™t say anything until Titi had gone home. Then, for the first time, she told me a little bit about her own childhood: about sewing and ironing handkerchiefs for Titi Aurora since before she could remember, for hours every day. â€œI resented it, Sonia. I donâ€™t want you to grow up feeling like I did.â€ She went on to apologize for being unable to buy us more things but still insisted it would be even worse if I blamed her one day for depriving me of a childhood.
I didnâ€™t see that coming. Nobody was forcing me to work. Sure, a little pocket money would be nice, but that wasnâ€™t the main motivation. â€œMami, I want to work,â€ I told her. Sheâ€™d worked too hard all her life to appreciate that leisure could mean boredom, but thatâ€™s what I knew Iâ€™d be facing if I sat home all summer. I promised never to blame her. In that moment, I began to understand how hard my motherâ€™s life had been. Titi Carmen reported back that Angie was willing to hire me for a dollar an hour. That was less than minimum wage, but since I wasnâ€™t old enough to work legally anyway, they would just pay me off the books. I would take the bus, meet Titi Carmen at her place, and then weâ€™d walk over to United Bargains together. That became our routine. It wasnâ€™t a neighborhood where you walked alone. United Bargains sold womenâ€™s clothing. I pitched in wherever needed: restocking, tidying up, monitoring the dressing rooms. I was supposed to watch for the telltale signs of a shoplifter trying to disappear behind the racks, rolling up merchandise to stuff in a purse. Junkies were especially suspect. They were easy to spot by the shadow in their eyes, though the tracks on their arms were hidden under long sleeves even in summer. There was never an argument, never a scene. Once in a while I had to say, â€œTake it out.â€ Most of the time I didnâ€™t need to utter a word. She would pull the garment out of her bag, put it back on the hanger, or maybe hand it to me, our eyes never meeting as she slinked out. We always let them go. There wasnâ€™t much choice: in a precinct that had come to be known as Fort Apache, the Wild West, the cops had their hands full dealing with the gangs. Besides, the management understood that the shame and pity were punishment enough, and I naturally agreed. I abhorred feeling pitied, that degrading secondhand sadness I would always associate with my familyâ€™s reaction to the news I had diabetes. To pity someone else feels no better. When someoneâ€™s dignity shatters in front of you, it leaves a hole that any feeling heart naturally wants to fill, if only with its own sadness. On Saturday nights the store was open late, and it was dark by the time we rolled down the gates. Two patrol officers would meet us at the door and escort us home. I donâ€™t know how this was arranged, whether it was true that one of the saleswomen was sleeping with one of these cops, but I was glad of it anyway. As we walked, we could see the SWAT team on the roofs all along Southern Boulevard, their silhouettes bulging with body armor, assault rifles bristling. One by one the shops would darken, and we could hear the clatter of the graffiti-covered gates being rolled down, trucks driving off, until we were the only ones walking. Even the prostitutes had vanished. You might trip on tourniquets and empty glassine packets when you got into the courtyard area at Titi Carmenâ €™s, but you wouldnâ€™t run into any neighbors. I would spend the night there, talking the night away with Miriam. I wished Nelson were there too, but he was never home anymore. I remember falling asleep thinking again about Lord of the Flies. It was as if the fly-crusted sowâ€™s head on a stick were planted in a crack of the sidewalk on Southern Boulevard. The junkies haunting the alley were little boys smeared with war paint, abandoned on a hostile island, and the eyes of the hunters cruising slowly down the street glowed with primitive appetites. The cops in their armor were only a fiercer tribe. Where was the conch? The next morning, in daylight, Southern Boulevard was less threatening. The street vendors were out, shop fronts were open, people were coming and going. On the way home I stopped at a makeshift fruit cart to buy a banana for a snack. I was standing there peeling my purchase when a police car rolled up to the curb. The cop got out and pointed here and there to what he wantedâ€”there was a language barrierâ€”and the vendor loaded two large shopping bags with fruit. The cop made as if to reach for his wallet, but it was only a gesture, and the vendor waved it off. When the cop drove away, I asked the man why he didnâ€™t take the money. â€œEs el precio de hacer negocios. If I donâ€™t give the fruit, I canâ€™t sell the fruit.â€ My heart sank. I told him I was sorry it was like that. â€œWe all have to make a living,â€ he said with a shrug. He looked more ashamed than aggrieved. Why was I so upset? Without cops our neighborhood would be even more of a war zone than it was. They worked hard at a dangerous job with little thanks from the people they protected. We needed them. Was I angry because I held the police to a higher standard, the same way I did Father Dolan and the nuns?
There was something more to it, beyond the betrayal of trust, beyond the corruption of someone whose uniform is a symbol of the civic order. How do things break down? In Lord of the Flies, the more mature of those lost boys start off with every intention of building a moral, functional society on their island, drawing on what they rememberâ€”looking after the â €œlittluns,â€ building the shelters, keeping the signal fire burning. Their little community gradually breaks down all the same, battered by those who are more self-indulgent, those who are driven by ego and fear. Which side was the cop on? The boys need rules, law, order, to keep their worst instincts in check. The conch they blow to call a meeting or hold for the right to speak stands for order, but it holds no power in itself. Its only power is what they agree to honor. It is a beautiful thing, but fragile. When I was much younger, on summer days I would sometimes go along with Titi Aurora to the place where she worked as a seamstress. Those must have been days when Mami was working the day shift and, for some reason, I couldnâ€™t go to Abuelitaâ€™s. That room with the sewing machines whirring was a vision of hell to me: steaming hot, dark, and airless, with the windows painted black and the door shut tight. I was too young to be useful, but I tried to help anyway, to pass the time. Titi Aurora would give me a box of zippers to untangle, or Iâ €™d stack up hangers, sort scraps by color, or fetch things for the women sewing. All day long Iâ€™d keep an eye out for anyone heading toward the door. As soon as it opened, Iâ€™d race over and stick my head out for a breath of air, until Titi saw me and shooed me back in. I asked her why they didnâ€™t just keep the door open. â€œThey just canâ€™t,â€ she would say. Behind the closed door and the blackened windows, all those women were breaking the law. But they werenâ€™t criminals. They were just women toiling long hours under miserable conditions to support their families. They were doing what they had to do to survive. It was my first inkling of what a tough life Titi Aurora had had. Titi never got the schooling that Mami got, and sheâ€™d borne the brunt of the father Mami was spared from knowing. Her married life would have many challenges and few rewards. Work was the only way she knew to keep going, and she never missed a day. And though Titi was also the most honest person I knewâ€”if she found a dime in a pay phone, sheâ€™d dial the operator to ask where she should mail itâ€”she broke the law every day she went to work. One evening at United Bargains, the women were making crank calls, dialing random numbers out of the phone book. If a womanâ€™s voice answered, they acted as if they were having an affair with her husband, then howled with laughter at their poor gullâ€™s response. Titi Carmen would join in, taking her turn on the phone and laughing as long and hard as any of them. I couldnâ€™t understand how anyone could be so cruelâ€”so arbitrarily, pointlessly cruel. What was the pleasure in it? Walking home, I asked her, â€œTiti, canâ€™t you imagine the pain youâ€™re causing in that house?â€ â€œIt was just a joke, Sonia. Nobody meant any harm.â€ How could she not imagine? How could the cop not imagine what two large shopping bags full of fruit might measure in a poor vendorâ€™s life, maybe a whole dayâ€™s earnings? Was it so hard to see himself in the other manâ€™s shoes? I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people canâ€™t imagine someone elseâ€™s point of view. Chapter Twelve Three days before Christmas and midway through my freshman year at Cardinal Spellman High School, we moved to a new apartment in Coop City. Once again, my mother had led us to what seemed like the edge of nowhere. Coop City was swampland, home to nothing but a desolate amusement park called Freedomland, until the cement mixers and dump trucks arrived barely a year before we did. We moved into one of the first of thirty buildings planned for a development designed to house fifty-five thousand. To get home from school, I had to hike a mileâ
€”down Baychester Avenue, across the freeway overpass, and through the vast construction site of half-built towers and bare, bulldozed mudâ€”before reaching human habitation. An icy wind that could lift you off your feet blew from the Hutchinson River. Flurries of snow blurred the construction cranes against an opaque sky of what seemed like Siberia in the Bronx. At least now we lived close enough for me to walk to school, and I was glad of that. The hour-long trek by bus and train from Watson Avenue had been tedious. Poor Junior, who was only in sixth grade when we moved, would make the commute in reverse from Coop City to Blessed Sacrament for another two and a half years. No one we knew had ever heard of Coop City. My mother learned about it from some newspaper article on the cityâ€™s plans for building affordable housing. The cost of living there was pegged to income, and at the same time you were buying inexpensive shares in a cooperative, so in theory there was a tax break. My mother was eager to get us into a safer place because the Bronxdale projects were headed downhill fast. Gangs were carving up the territory and each other, adding the threat of gratuitous violence to the scourges of drugs and poverty. A plague of arson was spreading through the surrounding neighborhoods as landlords of crumbling buildings chased insurance. Home was starting to look like a war zone. It was Dr. Fisher who made the move possible. When he died, he left my mother five thousand dollars in his will, the final and least expected of the countless kindnesses that we could never repay, although we tried. When Dr. Fisher was hospitalized after his wife died, Abuelita made Gallego stop on the way to work every morning to pick up Dr. Fisherâ€™s laundry and deliver clean pajamas to him. Yes, Coop City was the end of the earth, but once I saw the apartment, it made sense. It had parquet floors and a big window in the living room with a long view. All the rooms were twice the size of those cubbyholes in the projects, and the kitchen was big enough to sit and eat in. Best of all, my motherâ€™s friend Willy, a musician who did handiwork too, was able to partition the master bedroom into two little chambers, each big enough for a twin bed and a tiny bureau, so Junior and I could finally have separate rooms. Each had its own door, and Willy even let us each choose our own wallpaper. Junior chose something neutral, in a restrained shade of beige. Mine had constellations, planets, and signs of the zodiac in an antique style, as if a Renaissance cartographer had drawn a map for space travel. I was reading a lot of science fiction and fantasizing about travel to other worlds or slipping through a time warp. It had been only the summer before, in July 1969, that two astronauts had walked on the moon, and I was awestruck that it had happened in my own lifetime, especially when I remembered how Papi had predicted this. From the earthâ€™s leaders, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin carried messages etched in microscopically tiny print on a silicon disk, messages that could fit on the head of a pin, to be deposited on the surface of the moon. Pope Paulâ €™s was from Psalm 8: â€œI look up at your heavens, made by your fingers, at the moon and stars you set in place. Ah, what is man that you should spare a thought for him? Or the son of man that you should care for him? You have made him a little less than an angel, you have crowned him with glory and splendor, and you have made him lord over the work of your hand.â€ Continues... Excerpted from My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor Copyright Â© 2013 by Sonia Sotomayor. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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