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Read My Beloved World Online by Sonia Sotomayor

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An instant American icon--the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court-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 selfinvention, alongside Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father.

Reviews I'm conflicted about the idea of her writing a memoir. As a judge, you're supposed to represent the law, and that is all; hence all of the matching black robes, and at one time, even wigs-you're not supposed to be a personality. So although I enjoyed the book and admire her deeply, it's a little disconcerting that she is able to justify the authoring of this book, a book that people only care about because she is a supreme court justice. She is not an elected public servant, she did not run for office, she was offered this incredibly honourable position based on character and jurisprudence. When you accept the offer to serve on the court, you're supposed to humbly pass on any opportunities that are then bestowed on you because of this role. You have to sacrifice certain aspirations or avenues that may interest you in life, especially anything personal, because being a supreme court justice is a lifetime commitment that holds so much more value than a traditional job that ends in the evening. Although she is not the first justice to author a book while still sitting on the court, I think she is aiding in setting a bad precedent for future justices of what acceptable behaviour is. She is obviously well aware of this fine line that she is walking as the book omits any specific philosophical perspective on law, and also stops 21 years ago, in 1992, just as she becomes a judge. I saw her speak in person and found it interesting that she addressed this very issue without specifically being prompted about it. It was as if she felt like she needed to clarify the reasoning behind this book; perhaps she was conflicted internally about this project and wanted to provide the justification to others (and to herself), or perhaps I was just reading too much into an expanded answer.


Regardless, her reasoning for writing this now was that her family story is dying; quite literally, as some of characters in her life are well into their 80s and 90s, and even one who shared a story with her about her parents, a story of their love that she was completely unaware of until researching this project, died before the book went to print. Hearing that certainly elevated my level of respect for her, but there's still something about a supreme court justice accepting a seven figure book signing deal about herself that rubs me the wrong way.

Justice Sotomayor states in her introduction who her intended audience is – those people who ask her how this or that challenge that they share affected her success. With that general audience in mind, it is a very accessible story. It would be very well suited for a young adult looking for inspiration and encouragement to dream big. Occasionally, she addresses those critics who might be looking for ammunition against her, but gently and with humor, noting that beliefs she held as a college student are not what she might espouse today. She is coy about her current policy ideals, and stops at her first judicial appointment. I’ve been skeptical in recent years about the more public face that the Supreme Court justices have taken – books, tours, interviews. This book makes me rethink that, though. Justice Sotomayor is open about the challenges she faced – poverty, an alcoholic father, diabetes, a distant relationship with her mother, English as her second language. She is also open about her insecurities and failures. She discusses the people and events that shaped her moral center and formed her friendships. Ultimately, her empathy is a gift on the bench, and I think it is useful to hear the story of how she developed it.

This is an excellently written autobiography about a fascinating woman, an American dream kind of story I never get tired of reading. It's an inspiring look at a first generation American, with hard working parents living in a housing project, who are determined to make a better life. Sonia is something else. She is a go-getter from the start. There's at once, a compassion and a wisdom in understanding her tragic father, an alcoholic, who dies in his prime. Never is there a trace of self-pity. I love the part where she describes the excitement she and her brother felt when Mom has a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica delivered to their modest home, opening doors to the wonder of learning. A very enjoyable read--except there's much on "talking shop" about the esteemed Yale law school, the inner goings on of the NYC judicial system, but all in all, a very good and substantive read. Bravo Sonia.

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