My Beloved World

By Sonia Sotomayor

(Knopf, $27.95, 336 pages)

Who is this author?

Sonia Sotomayor, who became the newest Supreme Court Associate Justice in August, 2009, has had a stellar legal career. Rising from poverty in the South Bronx with the determined support of her mother and grandmother, she went on to be her high school’s valedictorian and to graduate summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1976 and from Yale Law School in
1979. After stints as a New York assistant district attorney and at a law firm, she went on to become a judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and then served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second
Circuit. She is the third woman and the first American of Hispanic heritage to serve on the Supreme Court.

What is this book about?

A bright kid with what must have seemed at the time like a dim future – a juvenile diabetic who learned to sterilize needles and inject her own insulin shots at age 7, a daughter whose father was an alcoholic who died when she was 9, a girl with an emotionally remote mother and a spirited grandmother, a TV fan who found role models in characters who played lawyers  – Sonia Sotomayor’s inherent intelligence and perseverance carried her forward to a brilliant career. In this memoir, we learn how she drew on her inner resources and common sense to build on what America has to offer to those who have the determination to
succeed. She writes candidly about her family, her brief, failed marriage, her dreams and her struggles, her mentors and her early experiences. This memoir ends when Sotomayor joins the lower court, which means that there is plenty of dramatic material left for subsequent memoirs.

Why you’ll like it:

Once derided for having too much “empathy” by her political opponents, Sotomayor demonstrates here that empathy is a great tool for a writer. Her memoir is straightforward, warm-hearted, revealing and honest: a very personal story of a woman who has overcome substantial odds and now has the ability and power to help shape the course of the nation. Reviewers are hailing the smoothness of her writing, and the 16 pages of photos add to the intimate nature of her book.

What others are saying:

Says Sara Nelson, writing for Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2013: “Happily, it is becoming a familiar story: The young, smart, and very hardworking son or daughter of immigrants rises to the top of American professional life. But already knowing the arc of Sonia Sotomayor’s biography doesn’t adequately prepare you for the sound of her voice in this winning memoir that ends, interestingly, before the Yale Law School grad was sworn in as the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Hers is a voice that lands squarely between self-deprecating and proud, grateful and defiant; a voice lilted with bits of Puerto Rican poetry; a voice full of anger, sadness, ambition, and love. “My Beloved World” is one resonant, glorious tale of struggle and triumph.”

“U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor … recounts numerous obstacles and remarkable achievements in this personal and inspiring autobiography. Her path to the highest court in the land was rife with difficulties, but it wasn’t circuitous—from an early age, Sotomayor was determined to become a lawyer. To reach her goal she overcame diabetes, the language barrier (her Puerto Rican family spoke Spanish at home), the early death of her beloved alcoholic father, and—in the academic and professional worlds—the disparaging of minorities. … Sotomayor is clear-eyed about the factors and people that helped her succeed, and she is open about her personal failures, foremost among them an unsuccessful marriage. Regardless of political philosophies, readers across the board will be moved by this intimate look at the life of a justice,” says Publishers Weekly.

Kirkus Reviews says: “Graceful, authoritative memoir from the country’s first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. … The author’s text forms a cultural patchwork of memories and reflections as she mines the nuances of her parents’ tumultuous relationship, fondly recalls family visits in Puerto Rico and offers insight on a judicial career that’s just beginning when the memoir ends. Sotomayor writes that her decision (a shrewd one) to close her story early is based on both a political career she feels is “still taking shape” and a dignified reluctance to expand upon any recent high court “political drama,” regardless of the general public’s insatiable curiosity. Mature, life-affirmative musings from a venerable life shaped by tenacity and pride.”

“…Sotomayor’s big-hearted autobiography, “My Beloved World,” is nothing if not a powerful brief in defense of empathy, her
long-awaited closing argument in the trial of Mind v. Heart.

Readers looking to mine this book for clues about the justice’s legal philosophy will be disappointed… but 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. Sotomayor offers up a tale of a sprawling “family,” generous mentors and the many opportunities she has grabbed and paid forward….” says Dahlia Lithwick in The Washington Post.

“…”My Beloved World,” published simultaneously in English and Spanish, is classic Sotomayor: intelligent, gregarious and at times disarmingly personal. While the tone is mostly bright, Sotomayor doesn’t shy from discussing her chronic diabetes and occasional bouts of unconsciousness, the death from AIDS of her cousin, her regret at not having children, her divorce or her nicotine addiction (she was once a three-pack-a-day smoker). The book ends just as she is appointed to the bench; readers hoping for insight into her jurisprudence won’t find it here. What she offers instead is 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,” says NPR.

When is it available?

Justice Sotomayor’s memoir is available at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Albany, Camp Field, Goodwin, Mark Twain and Park branches.

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