Book Review: My Beloved World

I recently finished the latest in my series of Audible books by bad-ass bitches.

This week’s offering:

sotomayor

I read this with my ears during my commute and it was brilliant.

The Blurb

With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, 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

The Review

Sonia Sotomayor kicks ass. She was raised in the Bronx Projects, the daughter of Puerto Ricans who’d met and married after the war. Her parents spoke very little English, her father was an alcoholic who died young, her mother worked her fanny off to support he two kids, and at age eight, Sonia was diagnosed with Type I diabetes – which at the time was akin to a death sentence.

When given a list of professions that were okay for Type I diabetics to pursue, she was disappointed that police office was a definite “no.” She’d wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew, but knew that in the absence of a wealthy lawyer father, she might not be able to make it on her own the way Nancy did.

So she set her sights on the law, with the eventual childhood dream of becoming a judge – knowing even then that was a long shot.

But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And, after a time, you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far off goal, but the quality of what you’ve done today.

This book talks about how she went from a mediocre student to a fantastic student. It was all about the gold stars (something we have in common). After her father died and her mother came out of her grief, they began speaking English at home, which helped immensely as well.

She ended up going to Princeton! And then Yale Law. And then the Manhattan’s DA office – not the typical lawerly path a Yale Law grad takes (private practice being more common and, I’m guessing, more lucrative).

Justice Sotomayor during a brief stint representing the muppets in court.

Justice Sotomayor passing down some harsh judgment on the Muppets of Sesame Street

Each of those new environs brought their own challenges, but with her sheer brilliance and determination, she not only succeeded, she kicked the highest level of ass. After the first time she lost a case as an ADA, she studied it, figured out where she went wrong, and then never again lost a case. Some of that might have come from her refusal to prosecute cases she thought had no business being tried.

The first year that I face the challenges of any new environment has always been a time of fevered insecurity. A reflexive terror that I’ll fall flat on my face. In this self-imposed probationary period, I work with compulsive intensity and single-mindedness until I gradually feel more confident.

She’d married her high school sweetheart between Princeton and Yale, and they split up while she was working in Manhattan and commuting back to Princeton where Kevin was in school. She doesn’t dwell overmuch on this in the book, but never tries to hide her own role in the dissolution of their marriage.

Being with someone never seems simpler than when you’re very young.

After leaving the DA’s office for Pavia & Harcourt where she learned a lot about business and international law, as well as trademarks (and got to meet the fanciest Italians ever), she quickly moved up to partner (in three years) and was there when she was nominated for a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. At 36, she was already seeing her dreams of a federal judgeship come true.

Justice Sotomayor doesn’t talk about anything regarding the Supreme Court, which makes sense to me as she’s still there! I’m looking forward to the sequel after she retires (which is unlikely to be soon).

Notable Quotes

  1. If you want to change someone’s mind, you must understand what need shapes his or her opinion. To prevail, you must first listen…
  2. Even a little romance can do wonders if you’re prepared to enjoy the moment and let the moments accumulate whatever may come of it.
  3. Although wisdom is built on life experience, the mere accumulation of years means nothing.
  4. You can always look up answers to specific questions in specific situations[…]so long as you have enough experience to know that a question exists. Learning the rules isn’t hard when you’re aware that there’s a rule to learn.

27dc14b3b8bfaa8c669cb4fb9207e80e

Emotional Kickers

There was so much loss in her life. Her father; her beloved grandmother; a cousin – lost first to drugs and then to HIV caused by intravenous drug use; her marriage; a close friend and mentor at Pavia & Harcourt.  Every time, she asks herself “Why not me?” She’d been given to expect a shorter than average lifespan. When she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, the life expectancy was not great. It is, of course, better now – but the number of times she found herself in life threatening situations is truly terrifying.

But through it all, she has her rocks – her beloved Abuelita until her death. Her Mami (when they aren’t fighting), her brother (when they grow into that sibling relationship), and so many good friends.

Even when accused of being brash or bitchy (or a brazen Jewish woman), she still finds the right people to support her, lift her up, and tell her when she needs to back down.

It makes me wonder what spark she has within her that so many lack. Maybe it’s the ability to find the right group of people who complemented her strengths, mitigated her weaknesses, and shored her up when she was sagging. That is truly a gift beyond measure.

Cocktail Party

My new dream is to have a bad-ass bitches cocktail party with Secretary Albright, Justice Sotomayor, Amy Schumer (remember our moment in Vegas, Amy? Call me!), one of my favourite authors EVAH, and my PSM. Of course, I’d probably pass out from the anxiety of being around that many people, so I’m gonna have to call in the Notorious RBG to keep me calmed down.

notorious RBG

Time Commitment

The audio book wasn’t terribly long (12 1/2 hours) and it was worth every second.

Verdict

Sonia Sotomayor is awesome. Star_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_Claim

Comments are closed.