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My Beloved World: A Review of Sonia Sotomayor's Memoir
Do you enjoy memoirs?
My Beloved World is an Engaging Memoir
I am not really fond of memoirs of famous people. If I'm going to read someone's life story, I prefer the story of someone who is relatively obscure who gives me a glimpse into everyday life from another culture or perspective. I usually shy away from big name biographies. The famous just never seem as interesting as they should be. So, I started My Beloved World with a little trepidation.
To be honest, I didn't think I would like this book. I've heard Sotomayor speak in her intelligent, measured manner. I expected the tone to take on the same meter. I thought this book would be dry and overly detailed. The only reason I check out it out was that I had just finished a novel. I needed an "in betweener" book until my next hold came up at the library.
Some Things About Justice Sotomayor
- Sonia was born in 1954 in New York.
- She graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1979 and three years later earned her doctorate at Princeton Law School.
- She was first nominated to a Judgeship by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
- She was nominated as Judge on the U.S. second circuit court of appeals by President Bill Clinton in 1998.
- She became the first Latino U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 2009.
It Starts With Her Childhood
Let's start at the beginning, shall we? Sonia Sotomayor came from meager beginnings. Her family lived in poverty in a Puerto Rican community of the South Bronx in New York. The first part of the book follows her through childhood. The middle is about her college years and her marriage to her high school sweetheart. The last part follows her career as in law ending with her appointed to the United States Supreme Court.
Her childhood is a harsh one. Her father is an alcoholic and her mother is unable to deal with it. You would think that this would be the beginning of a sad story. You know, where the lead tells of how her parent's shortcomings lead to her getting into drugs and dropping out of school. Well, it is not. It is the story of how strong family roots, education, and determine can lead to a better life.
As Sotomayor details her childhood, it's done in an brutally honest and passionate way. She is a masterful story teller and has a wonderful sense of humor. She shows a playful spirit when referring to the escapades she, her brother, and cousins got into--with Sonia as the ringleader. Some of the passages in this section made my smile. I came from a large family and know the trouble siblings can get themselves into.
A Strong Family Foundation
It is clear that family is her foundation. Those bonds being so important to her sense of belonging and her survival.
Her family is steeped in the traditions of Puerto Rico. Her family is a bit different. For instance, her grandmother, her rock, can summon spirits and has premonitions. She is the center of the weekly parties that the family enjoys.
I appreciate that Sotomayor does not gloss over their blemishes. Rather, she shows everyone with their flaws and inner qualities side by side. For instance, she is straight with the reader when she describes her mother as cold and standoffish. Yet, she is quick to show her mother's sacrifices so that Sonia and her brother could get a quality education. She presents them as real as she can, as people doing the best they can with what they have. By steering away from stereotypes about the poor, she shows us that there is humanity and zest for life even in the poorest of communities.
A Struggle After Her Father's Death
After her father's death, their lives change in many ways. There are dark times before there are good times. One thing stays constant: her mother's commitment to education. Her mother knew that she couldn't give her children money or fancy things, but she could give them proper schooling. She was determined that her children would have what she did not.
You come to know how stressful it is for a child growing up in these circumstances. My family was not well off. We sometimes lived from paycheck to paycheck. But, both my parents work and my Dad had a good Union job with excellent benefits--even if the pay wasn't the best. My parent's owned their house. Yet, in comparison to the Sotomayor's we lived a relatively comfortable life. We often did without the extra's in life, but we were shielded from the darker realities that the Sotomayor's lived every day.
I would recommend this memoir to anyone who enjoys a good rags to riches story. This is no kiss and tell memoir filled with lurid details of the author's affairs. It's a straightforward look into the harsh reality of growing up poor in America. But, as the author shows, poverty can be overcome. She's walked a difficulty path. Not only was she poor, but she was female and a minority on a career path where their weren't many who preceded her. This is an introspective, personal story, very warm, and true to life. I was inspired by her tale.
There are times the book is a little too detailed for my tastes. The section devoted to her college years gets a little bogged down in descriptions of school assignments and the organizations she is a part of. But, I think the section on her childhood is brilliantly written and more than makes up for a couple of slow patches.
This is a very honest memoir. It is written with such grace and in such an open fashion that it feels like the author is talking to you as a friend. She lays out her achievements and admits to her failures. She has made mistakes and she admits to them freely. One thing is clear, no matter where she was in any stage of her life, she lived with integrity and compassion. She rose to highest echelons of the justice system but she has never forgotten what it was like to have nothing. That experience being a guiding force in work.
Why She was Nominated
The President's Weekly Address is used to inform the public of issues of the day. This practice is an offshoot of Franklin Roosevelt's Fireside Chats.
In this address, President Obama talks about the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. He tells us why she deserves to be the next Justice of the Supreme Court.