Supreme Court justices are so private that they almost don’t seem human. But readers can get to know Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who in 2009 became the first Hispanic to sit on the United States’ highest judicial branch, in her memoir, My Beloved World (Knopf).
The book begins with a gripping scene in which seven-year-old Sonia is determined to learn how to inject a needle of insulin. Sotomayor was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, which can lower one’s life expectancy if not treated properly. That and other life events – her alcoholic father’s death when she was nine, growing up poor in the Bronx – made her determined to succeed in life.
“Along with discipline, that habit of internal awareness was perhaps another accidental gift from my disease. It is linked, I believe to the ease with which I can recall the emotions attached to memories and to a fine-tuned sensitivity to others’ emotional states, which has served me well in the courtroom.”
The first 100 pages are the best of the book, with descriptive anecdotes about her childhood – playing with her younger brother and friends in their neighborhood, winning a forensic tournament, trips to her family’s native Puerto Rico. In one touching scene, she recalls her abuelita singing the poem “To Puerto Rico (I Return),” written by José Gautier Benítez and translated for the book by novelist Lyn DiIorio.
As she goes to Princeton University and pursues a legal career, she does more telling than showing. But readers will be charmed by her naïveté – such as the time she threw away an invitation from Phi Beta Kappa, a prestigious sorority, because she thought it was a scam – and will emphasize with her honesty – such as this passage about the end of marriage:
“The truth is that since childhood I have cultivated an existential independence. It came from perceiving the adults around me as unreliable and without it I felt I wouldn’t have survived. I cared deeply for my family, but in the end I depended on myself. That way of being was part of the person I would become, but where once it had represented salvation, now it was alienating me from the person I had vowed to spend my life with.”
My Beloved World is a great, inspirational book about the making of a Latino hero.
In her free time, Sotomayor enjoys salsa dancing. Check out this narrated album of family photos and interview with Sotomayor from the NPR website, and this New York Times article about her book tour that has drawn thousands of fans.
Source: I purchased this book from La Casa Azul Bookstore.