Culture Watch Book Reviews: My Beloved World and Consider the Fork
Reviewed by Jill Norgren
My Beloved World
By Sonia Sotomayor; © 2013
Published by Knopf. Hardbook; ebook; 315pp.
Available in a Spanish edition: Mi mundo adorado, Vintage; ©2013
In the 1870s women began entering the all male profession of law. They were fearless pioneers who used anti-discrimination legislation, court decisions, and alliances with male supporters to win the equal opportunity to apply to law schools, take bar exams, and compete for legal positions and clients. Myra Bradwell’s famed appeal to join the Illinois bar failed at the US Supreme Court in 1873. Six years later, Washington, DC attorney Belva Lockwood succeeded in lobbying a bill through Congress that would permit her, and all other qualified women lawyers, to become members of the federal bar including the US Supreme Court. In 1880 Lockwood became the first woman attorney to argue a case before the justices of that court.
As an attorney and now US Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor stands on the shoulders of the early rebels who opened the practice of law to women. The nineteenth century pioneers had their unique stories. So does Sotomayor. In My Beloved World Sotomayor, in collaboration with Zara Houshmand, serves up a fascinating memoir about her childhood, education, and early career. She dishes up plenty of stories, and inspiration, while maintaining decorum and discretion on some, but not all, matters involving family and friends. Sotomayor served as a judge on the US District Court and US Court of Appeals before joining the Supreme Court. My Beloved World spends little time on this, more recent, portion of her life. She has, for the moment, sworn off any discussion of politics and jurisprudence. Some commentators have expressed vexation. I believe we will hear from her on these matters all in good time. Instead, in this book, Justice Sotomayor has seized the opportunity to tell a story of personal struggle and success, arguing that the value of dreams “is in stirring within us the will to aspire.” It is the story of an extraordinary journey.
Media appearances to promote My Beloved World have made Sotomayor a well-known celebrity. She was, however, a little-known jurist until 2009 when President Obama nominated her to fill David Souter’s seat on the Supreme Court. In his formal comments on her nomination the president outlined her compelling biography: life on the mean streets of New York’s South Bronx as the child of hard working Puerto Rican immigrants, one of whom was an alcoholic, joined with the protective cocoon of a large and caring extended family, and a mother of enormous discipline. President Obama introduced Celina Sotomayor as a parent who believed that “with a good education here in America all things are possible.” Certainly Celina’s daughter, a summa cum laude graduate of Princeton and an editor of law review while at Yale, has proved her mother’s point.
Photograph: President Barack Obama and Justice Sonia Sotomayor talk in the Green Room prior to the start of a reception honoring Sotomayor at the White House, August 12, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
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