Destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discoveryan inspiring gift for any new graduate.
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.
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About the Author
Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. From 1992 to 1998, she served as a judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and from 1998 to 2009 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.
Read an Excerpt
My Beloved World
By Sonia Sotomayor
KnopfCopyright © 2013 Sonia Sotomayor
All right reserved.
From Chapter 11
I was working my way through the summer reading list when Lord of the Flies brought me to a halt. I wasn’t ready to start another book when I finished that one. I’d never read anything so layered with meaning: it haunted me, and I needed to think about it some more. But I didn’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 wasn’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 couldn’t make every day. Besides, without Abuelita’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 wasn’t the same.
So I decided to get a job. Mami and Titi Carmen were sitting in Abuelita’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 Abuelita’s old neighborhood. Titi Carmen still lived on Southern Boulevard and worked nearby at United Bargains. The momandpop stores under the El wouldn’t hire kids—leaning on family labor rather than paying a stranger—but the bigger retailers along Southern Boulevard might. I proposed to walk down the street and inquire in each one. “Don’t do that,” said Titi Carmen. “Let me ask Angie.” Angie was Titi Carmen’s boss.
My mother meanwhile looked stricken and bit her lip. She didn’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. “I resented it, Sonia. I don’t want you to grow up feeling like I did.” 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 didn’t see that coming. Nobody was forcing me to work. Sure, a little pocket money would be nice, but that wasn’t the main motivation. “Mami, I want to work,” I told her. She’d worked too hard all her life to appreciate that leisure could mean boredom, but that’s what I knew I’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 mother’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 wasn’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 we’d walk over to United Bargains together. That became our routine. It wasn’t a neighborhood where you walked alone.
United Bargains sold women’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, “Take it out.” Most of the time I didn’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 wasn’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 family’s reaction to the news I had diabetes. To pity someone else feels no better. When someone’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 don’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 Carmen’s, but you wouldn’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 sow’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 wanted—there was a language barrier—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 didn’t take the money.
“Es el precio de hacer negocios. If I don’t give the fruit, I can’t sell the fruit.”
My heart sank. I told him I was sorry it was like that.
“We all have to make a living,” 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 remember—looking after the “littluns,” 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 couldn’t go to Abuelita’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 I’d stack up hangers, sort scraps by color, or fetch things for the women sewing. All day long I’d keep an eye out for anyone heading toward the door. As soon as it opened, I’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 didn’t just keep the door open. “They just can’t,” she would say.
Behind the closed door and the blackened windows, all those women were breaking the law. But they weren’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 she’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 knew—if she found a dime in a pay phone, she’d dial the operator to ask where she should mail it—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 woman’s voice answered, they acted as if they were having an affair with her husband, then howled with laughter at their poor gull’s response. Titi Carmen would join in, taking her turn on the phone and laughing as long and hard as any of them. I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so cruel—so arbitrarily, pointlessly cruel. What was the pleasure in it? Walking home, I asked her, “Titi, can’t you imagine the pain you’re causing in that house?”
“It was just a joke, Sonia. Nobody meant any harm.”
How could she not imagine? How could the cop not imagine what two large shopping bags full of fruit might measure in a poor vendor’s life, maybe a whole day’s earnings? Was it so hard to see himself in the other man’s shoes?
I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.
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 mile—down Baychester Avenue, across the freeway overpass, and through the vast construction site of half-built towers and bare, bulldozed mud—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 city’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. Fisher’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 mother’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 earth’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 Paul’s was from Psalm 8: “I 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.”
Excerpted from My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor Copyright © 2013 by Sonia Sotomayor. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
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What People are Saying About This
“A compelling and powerfully written memoir about identity and coming of age…If the outlines of Justice Sotomayor’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 reader…This account of her life is revealing, keenly observed and deeply felt…This insightful memoir underscores just how well Justice Sotomayor mastered the art of narrative. 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.”
—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 …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 her—she lets them be complicated…'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."
—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."
—John Wilwol, Washingtonian
"Sotomayor turns out to be a writer of depth and literary flair…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."
—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 Sonia…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."
—Grace Bello, Christian Science Monitor
“This 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.”
—Nina Totenberg, NPR
"Big-hearted…A powerful defense of empathy…She has spent her life imagining her way into the hearts of everyone around her…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."
—Dahlia Lithwick, The Washington Post
“My Beloved World” is filled with inspiring, and surprisingly candid, stories about how the Supreme Court’s first Hispanic justice overcame a troubled childhood to attend Princeton and Yale Law School, eventually earning a seat on the nation’s highest court.”
—Carla Main, Wall Street Journal
"Remarkable…A portrait of a genuinely interesting person."
—Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast
"In a refreshing conversational style, Sotomayor tells her fascinating life story with the hope of providing “comfort, perhaps even inspiration” to others, particularly children, who face hard times. “People who live in difficult circumstances,” Sotomayor writes in her preface, “need to know that happy endings are possible."
—Jay Wexler, Boston Globe
"Classic Sotomayor: intelligent, gregarious and at times disarmingly personal…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 inside…I certainly hope My Beloved World inspires readers to chase their dreams."
—Jason Farago, NPR
“Vital, loving, and incisive…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.”
—Library Journal (Starred review)
“Justice Sotomayor recounts numerous obstacles and remarkable achievements in this personal and inspiring autobiography…Readers across the board will be moved by this intimate look at the life of a justice.”
“Amazingly candid… an intimate and honest look at her extraordinary life and the support and blessings that propelled her forward.”
—Booklist (Starred review)
“Graceful, authoritative memoir…Mature, life-affirming musings from a venerable life shaped by tenacity and pride.”
Reading Group Guide
The questions, discussion topics, and suggestions for further reading that follow are designed to enhance your group’s conversation about My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic to serve on the United States Supreme Court. Direct, candid, and inspiring, she describes her difficult childhood, her path to success at Princeton University and Yale Law School, and the realization of her dream of becoming a judge.
1. What do Sotomayor’s descriptions of her childhood convey about Spanish-speaking communities in New York? In what ways are the hardships in her household—the lack of financial resources, her father’s alcoholism, and the tension between her parents—exacerbated by the strains of living in a marginalized society? What family or cultural traditions help mitigate the difficulties she and her family face? Are there traditions in other cultures including your own that serve the same function?
2. When she learns she has diabetes, Sotomayor thinks, “I probably wasn’t going to live as long as most people…So I couldn’t afford to waste time” [p. 99]. What does her reaction reveal about the way Sotomayor views herself and the possibilities available to her? In what ways does it establish a pattern for her behavior throughout her life? What other life events, like Sotomayor’s chronic illness, can alter a person’s outlook?
3. Sotomayor writes, “My father’s neglect made me sad; but I intuitively understood that he could not help himself; my mother’s neglect made me angry” [p. 16]. This is a child’s perspective of her life at the time. Is it fair? If so, in which ways and if not, what nuances of addiction and family’s responses are missing?
4. How do her visits to Puerto Rico enrich Sotomayor’s appreciation of her background? What aspects of her time there give her a sense of pride? Why does the island’s physical beauty, the museum she visits, and the warm connections among her relatives affect her so deeply [pp. 40-48]? Compare her impressions as a child to her perspective as an adult [pp. 191-192]. Do visits, traditions, or other events evoke an appreciation of your own background?
5. In describing the visit to her maternal grandfather, Sotomayor writes, “I have carried the memory of that day as a grave caution” [p. 49]. Why do you think her mother never spoke to Sotomayor about being abandoned as a child? Are there good reasons for keeping an unhappy past from one’s own children? Do you agree that “without acknowledgment and communication, forgiveness is beyond reach” or do you think that it is possible to forgive someone who is unable or unwilling to acknowledge their impact on your life?
6. Sotomayor comes to understand her parents’ relationship as an adult when she learns the details of their backgrounds, courtship, and marriage [chapter seven]. Did aspects of her mother’s story surprise you? What insights did it give you into her character? Does her parents’ history give you a new perspective on Sotomayor’s strengths and ambitions? Does her parents’ history give you a new perspective on your own parents?
7. When Sotomayor arrives at Princeton she finds “that many of my classmates seemed to come from another planet and that that impression was reciprocated” [p. 160]. What role does gender and ethnicity play in her sense of isolation and insecurity? What helps her adjust to the unfamiliar, often unfriendly, atmosphere of Princeton? Are there other means that she might have tried?
8. In addition to the barriers women and minorities faced at traditionally male, white universities, students of Sotomayor’s generation faced the polarizing effects of affirmative action: “The Daily Princetonian routinely published letters to the editor lamenting the presence of ‘affirmative action students’” [p. 183]. What arguments can be made on either side for supporting or opposing affirmative action programs? Did the book assist you in understanding the debate better?
9. In reviewing the repercussions of affirmative action, Sotomayor writes, “Much has changed in the thinking about affirmative action since those early days when it opened doors in my life and Junior’s. But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try” [p. 245]. Have the prejudices Sotomayor encountered changed over the ensuing decades? Are things better, worse, or the same?
10. At Yale Law School Sotomayor met José Cabranes, whom she calls “the first person I can describe as a true mentor” [p. 224]. What does Cabranes represent to her? How do the mentors she meets at various stages of her life shape her approach to her role as a model for others? Do you have mentors in your life who have provided or now provide support in different ways?
11. What does she learn at Yale and later as an Assistant DA in New York City and as a lawyer in private practice about the assumptions made about her based on her gender and ethnicity? In what ways do her experiences in both the public and private sectors defy her assumptions? What assumptions about yourself do you regularly encounter and how do you deal with them?
12. Sotomayor describes several of the cases she took on at the District Attorney’s office and at Pavia & Harcourt. What do these descriptions contribute to the memoir? What insights do they offer into the workings of the legal profession as well as Sotomayor’s personal approach to the practice of law?
13. Sotomayor writes candidly about her divorce [p. 280-285]. Are the difficulties she and Kevin faced common in relationships that begin during the teenage years or in situations where the wife is more successful than the husband? Discuss the regrets and self-criticism Sotomayor offers in describing the reasons for her failed marriage. Do you think she and Kevin could have had a successful marriage given their circumstances?
14. How have Sotomayor’s strong attachments to her community, family, and friends shaped her personality and unique perspective? How do they reflect the attitudes she acquired growing up in a Puerto Rican culture? Are these attitudes that can be acquired in different ways?
15. What different groups does Sotomayor identify with in the course of her narrative? How does her self-image change as she pursues her education and career? How does she define herself at the memoir’s end? How do you define yourself and your life?
16. How would you describe the tone of My Beloved World? Talk about the effects of her touches of humor (including self-mockery); frank appraisals of herself and others; and informal style on your appreciation of her story. Are there aspects of her life you think she should have explored more fully?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My Beloved World is a look into the life of a child born into a life of poverty,despair, violence and insecurities. Through it all her strength and determination to be the best moved her forward with conviction . She is very moving author She is indeed a role model for young women today. I recommend this book to females who want to be inspired and who want to make a difference in this world. Thank you Sonia- Muchas Gracia. Que Dios la bndiga!
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.
Great Book. I can say enough good things about this lady. Stories like hers are truly inspirational. Is very sad that a couple of reviews are not about the book and focus only in their personal politic preferences.
My beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor, Spanglish Edition Whenever I review a famous person biography - or “memoir” as the Justice has decided to call it - I try to think how the book would read if the person writing it would be an ordinary person. The book opens with the Justice’s diagnosis of juvenile diabetes at age 7 - “not yet 8” - and how Sonia learns how to give her insulin shots to stop her parents from fighting about it. We see a little girl who lives in the the projects of the Bronx, raised by an alcoholic father - Juan Luis or Juli - and a nurse - Celina - who are constantly fighting. Her father dies soon after the beginning of the book, and we see Sonia raised in an extended family which includes her grandmother - abuelita Mercedes - and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Sonia’s best friends are her immediate family and her comfort and support are drawn from it. I found this part of the book to be quite endearing - a la Junot Díaz way - with multiple use of Spanish words and phrases to remind the reader of the Justice’s background and culture. However as we move past Cardinal Spellman High School and on to Princeton and Yale Law School, the book changes in tone. The Spanish words and phrases diminish in frequency, and the reader is presented with the more professional side of the Justice. This second half of the book I found tedious and boring. It becomes more of a who’s who in the Justice personal life. The Justice apologizes in her introduction: “If particular friends or family members find themselves not mentioned...I hope they will understand that the needs of a clear and focused telling must outweigh even an abundance of feeling.” It almost felt that if you were famous and she knew you, she would drop his or her name to add flare to the narrative. i didn’t like it - I felt it drew flare away from her.... I also wondered why the Justice found herself defending her admissions to Princeton and Yale Law School. Her constant defense and justification of minority quotas and her insecurities as to why she was admitted to both schools are not necessary; after all, she’s a Justice of the Supreme Court - case closed! Her work as assistant D. A. in New York, the cases she tried, and then her take at the Pavia and Hartcourt law firm, and finally her appointment to the District Court Judge for the South District of NY - where the book abruptly ends - are not as fun to read. And, yes, I was disappointed that the Justice did not include her story as to how she was appointed to the Supreme Court. As much as I admire and like the Judge, I think it would have made a much better read, given who she is, and why we’re reading her story. The book is very well edited; the narrative is from the first person universal point if view; which is what I would expect in any a biography. After all, we’re seeing the world through Sonia Sotomayor’s point of view. The Glossary is a nice feature. In all, I would recommend the book to anyone who. like me, admires the Judge.
This book is turly inspirational, and in so many ways I can relate. I give her props.
I wished several times while reading this book I could relay my gratitude to Justice Sonia Sotomayor for this moving, beautifully written memoir. I felt I was walking that mile in her shoes in her ever-mindful journey. She talks about her life with astonishing candor. Filled with pearls of wisdom, this book captivated me from beginning to end. It's a real treasure.
Amazing, interesting, and extremely inspirational!
It's quick read with numerous personal anecdotes that Her Honor has added. Understandably, she has conquered many demons, health related and otherwise. In today's world it is hard enough to find one's own way and she has accomplished a great deal. I would have liked a bit more warmth and more anecdotes, and I would love to know more about her mentors, too. All in all, a quick read and informative, I'd say.
Sonia Sotomayor's story is an uplifting study in perseverance and strength. Losing herv father at a young age she raised herself literally by her bootstraps from a life of poverty and disadvantages in a crime-ridden neighborhood of New York to become a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. How does a poor girl with marginal English perfect her skills in a public high school to get a full ride scholarship to Princeton and then Yale? A brilliant, powerfully intelligent and a supportive family alone made it possible. Sonia is one person I'd most like my children to meet. Once you read her book you'll understand why.
Sonia Sotomayor's book captured me from the first page. I was inspired by this woman the challenges she faced in her life. Best of all, I was inspired by her knowledge that she had to take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for her life, her choices and the paths she would pursue in life. She surely faced many events in her upbringing that could have been used as excuses; however, she did not of that and forged on. I admit the first half of the book, which focused on her young life and early times at college kept my interest; however, I started to fade as she delved into her career as an attorney and judge. This is still a very inspiring book and I was proud to be able have a glimpse into this woman's life. I am always up for reading about inspirational women!
I loved reading this book. I remembered crying on the day she was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. I'm so proud of her and loved reading about her resilient and self-determined nature. Her attitude about learning from others no matter how different is remarkable. It's an easy read, and pretty funny at times. Thank you for sharing your story Justice Sotomayor. Que dios tell bendiga (God bless you)?
Even a Supreme Court justice has a personal life and Sotomayor's is richer than most. Her father was a talented man but became alcoholic and died when she was nine. Her mother struggled to become a practical nurse before Sonia was born, handicapped in school by her Puerto Rican Spanish language. They lived in subsidized housing in a high crime area of the Bronx. Little Sonia strove to make up for her quarrelling parents' deficiencies and apparently became very socially observant and compassionate. She learned to live with people's limitations and make the best of them. Sonia's mother encouraged her to do well in school, herself going through torment to complete her registered nursing degree. Sonia attended Catholic schools and did well indeed. She was daunted by the unexpected prospect of entering nearby Princeton University as part of an early wave of affirmative action. When her mother heard what a prestigious school it was, she wasn't even sure young Sonia should try. Sotomayor had juvenile diabetes. Before her father died his hands shook so much he was unable to give her insulin injections, so all her life she injected herself. She coped with that, she coped with occasional low blood sugar, she coped so well that she graduated Summa cum Laude, won the Byrne Award at Princeton and entered Yale Law School. Every new school, even high school, had its challenges for someone of Puerto Rican nationality but Sotomayor coped. She made a record for herself in varied legal practices until she was appointed to the Federal bench and the rest is history. This memoir is distinguished by Sotomayor's compassion and her understanding of people around her who let her down in various ways. She saw the good in people even as an assistant district attorney, striving for fairness even while accomplishing an enviable conviction rate. The book shows how a minority group background, even a second language, can be as much of an advantage as a handicap in pursuing social justice. I recommend this book for all readers.
From stories of her humble childhood growing up in Puerto Rico, through her acceptance at Princeton and Yale Law School, and into her years of public service as a New York District Attorney and private practice in Manhattan, US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shares her insights and reflections with an unassuming grace and sense of purpose. Her journey is one of determination, tenacity, and perseverance. Avoiding all soapboxes and political agenda, Justice Sotomayor tells a truth known to many minorities but often unrecognized by those who have risen to such lofty positions in our justice system. Her experience with diabetes, loved ones dealing with alcoholism and addiction, education, and affirmative action are all enlightening and inspiring. I especially enjoyed the audiobook read by Rita Moreno, which included a Foreword and Prologue read by Justice Sotomayor. Hers is a story worth telling, and she tells it very well.
I highly recommend My Beloved World by Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor. Her autobiography is warm, deeply personal and an excellent read. Sotomayor felt called to be a judge at a young age. She had a family and community of beloved friends and mentors to support her throughout her journey to the highest court in the land. This book celebrates those ties. If Sotomayor had not chosen the law she would have been a great teacher. She finds the important lessons in life, and passes along wise truths. Her readers can cull many from the book. Among them are: The power of education: Sotomayor learned from her mother the power of education. The devoted nuns at her school drilled the essentials into their charges, and Sotomayor says her Catholic education lifted her above her friends in the low income housing. Building on her excellent education and determined scholarship, she was granted admission to Princeton and then on to Yale law school. The power of work: She seemed to have worked non stop from an early age. She worked at the hospital where her mother was employed. She worked on her studies far beyond her peers and taught herself proper English writing and grammar while a college student. As I read her story I was astounded by her determination--determination that spilled over into drivenness. The power of people working together: While a college student, Sotomayor joined a group of fellow students in the “Third World” club. Together they upheld one another at an elite, exclusive, and discriminatory institution and reached out to the disenfranchised patients at a local health care facility. Later in her career she served on boards and committees of organizations devoted to Puerto Rican and minority issues. In so doing she broadened her own world, helped others and met more fantastic mentors. The power of mentors: Sotomayor sought out mentors throughout her entire life. Beginning with a smarter classmate in grade school, she was unafraid to admit her lack and ask others to teach her how to navigate new situations. Those mentors encouraged her all the way to the Supreme Court. The power of believing in your self: She chose to attend college at Princeton, rather than a local college. And as they say, the rest is history. Then she chose a career path following law school that other Yale grads would eschew. After a successful career as an assistant district attorney, she turned down a promotion and switched to a small private firm. Making her own choices allowed her to fast-track to the judgeship she wanted. The power of a vocation: Sotomayor feels that her position is a vocation, not a career. Since a small child she has felt called to help society at large. She derives great mental and emotional satisfaction in seeing the law used to help solve societal issues. The power of family: Sotomayor’s extended family is portrayed in all facets. She morns the loss of her cousin to drugs. She rejoices in her grandmother’s love and care that follows her even after her grandmother’s death. She is a proud sister of her physician brother. And she’s determined to be the “fun aunt” to her nieces and nephews. The love of--and for--her family surrounds her like a comforting quilt. It is a real privilege to read this book. Rarely does a person get to meet and talk with a great woman and see into a great mind. Sonia Sotomayor makes the visit with her a warm, interesting and rewarding time.
What a wonderful sharing of struggles and making it to the top. I loved the book.
Well written book, provides an intimate view of family and personal challenges with earned perseverence.
Very interesting to learn the background of a Supreme Court justice. It explains what shapes her opinions.
Sotomayor’s book becomes more relevant today than ever. She speaks eloquently about the love of one person - her grandmother - as making all the difference to her as a child, similar in message to J.D. Vance's "Hillbilly Elegy" memoir. Sotomayor's experiences in a Puerto Rican family point to the value of different cultures. Growing up, she saw Puerto Ricans in positions of management and prestige on the island, but rarely in mainland U.S. She points out the rudeness of a sales clerk towards her mother when she was buying a nice coat for Sotomayor, a rudeness that turned into sparkling customer service when the clerk found out Sonia was going to attend Princeton. One may argue against affirmative action as too arbitrary and unfair to persons more qualified, but Sotomayor speaks passionately about the disadvantages of growing up in a culture not focused or even aware of higher education, and that the poor and minorities are disproportionately victims (rather than perpetrators) of crime. What's also tough is new immigrants not being taught in both their native language and English when they arrive. This ensures more of them fall behind, furthering the negative stereotype of Puerto Ricans and other immigrants as less than smart and hard-working. Today, as much as half of the student bodies of elite universities come from the top 1%. It warps the objectivity of the law to have students get placed on higher tracks of income and power solely based on family lineage. You needn’t look any further than the Trump administration to know the dangers of a president and party so focused on advancing the agenda for rich whites at the expense of everyone else, this in a country already based on European law and customs. We have a Supreme Court ruling actually stating that money is free speech (oh, to be rich). Instead, we know that religious freedom helps Christians (it at least lowers the excuse of their feeling 'under attack' from other religions whose freedom would otherwise be arbitrarily limited), free and fair public education helps lower income whites, etc. We just need a broader view that the rule of law protects everyone. You can't say that immigrants come here illegally and support a president who actually believes he can pardon himself. If the immigrants are coming from countries full of extreme violence and oppression, their legality is lower on the list of important considerations anyway. Time and again, "My Beloved World" answers fear with generosity, privilege with community, favoritism with merit. The only complaint about the book is a common one - that Sotomayor doesn't write about her experiences on the Supreme Court. She says her core beliefs were formed before her nomination and govern everything she's done. But she writes so much about serving the greater good. Does it serve the greater good more to write about grain shipment arbitration while being in a small law firm, as she does, or Citizens United? Does it serve more people to explain in length about her struggles with diabetes, or use some of the same time and pages talking about the Affordable Care Act? Would a new forward or afterword during this election year help good causes? While the fight is very real, this book has a lot going for it. Namely, she wants to learn from everyone. She doesn't want to harden her positions and fall into the deep darkness of our current partisanship. This theme alone makes the book a winner.
This book was enjoyable as an insight into an amazing life and a leader that has done all of America proud. The book is DISsatisfying in that it definitely keeps the reader at arm's length. At times in her life when emotion had to be strong, she describes her feelings with detachment that diminishes the bond with the reader. Her reports are so cool and level-headed as to seem unreal. Early in the book, she states her determination not to compromise her objectivity and neutrality as a justice--both of which are laudable and appropriate; and her writing style was very "lawyerly". I enjoyed this book and getting to know her a little, but I missed the emotional resonance that her story surely could have had.
Interesting picture of her young life and the obstacles she overcame. I loved learning about her family and Puerto Rican heritage. She is intelligent yet humble, an inspiring and brave woman. This memoir makes me really appreciate her more than ever.