Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World (New York: Knopf, 2013), 315pp.
Sonia Sotomayor was a young girl when she knew she wanted to become a judge. There were a few obstacles. She was born to Puerto Rican immigrants in the tenement projects of the Bronx, better known for drugs, poverty, gangs, and violence. Spanish was the first language at home. When she was seven, she was diagnosed with type 1 juvenile diabetes, and started giving herself daily insulin shots. When she was nine, her alcoholic father died, leaving his wife a single mom at the age of thirty-six. No one in the family ever had a bank account.
But Sotomayor's "native optimism and stubborn perseverance" paid off. After twelve years of Catholic parochial schools, and after a classmate explained to her what the "Ivy League" was, she went to Princeton on a full scholarship. She graduated summa cum laude, won Princeton's highest award for a graduating senior, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After Yale law school she worked for the New York District Attorney's office, and then at Pavia and Harcourt. At the age of thirty-six, she was nominated as a federal district court judge (under the Bush administration!). Her Supreme Court appointment came in 2009.
Sotomayor writes in an informal style and with unusual candor and vulnerability about her unlikely pilgrimage, both personally and professionally — her failed marriage, her frumpy appearance and dress, her three-and-a-half pack a day smoking habit that she quit, a failed summer internship in law school, her chronic insecurities about being an outsider, her ferocious drive and fear of failure, and her aloof relationship with her mother. And she's refreshingly gracious. "I would never claim to be a self-made person," she says. She acknowledges the mystery of fate that she ended up where she is, while many others in her family and neighborhood experienced drastically different fates. The only disappointing thing about this book, which she concedes in the introduction, is that it ends 20 years ago when she became a federal judge. The book includes 16 pages of photos.