Friday, January 25, 2013

My Beloved World

My Beloved World
by Sonia Sotomayor
Knopf, 2013.  315 pgs. Autobiography

Justice Sotomayor's impressive autobiography tells the story of a young girl who grew up in the South Bronx, daughter of a loving but alcoholic father (who died when she was nine) and a hardworking but often distant mother. Her paternal grandmother essentially raised her, nurturing and encouraging her, as did her neighborhood friends and family from near and far. Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age eight, she took responsibility for her own health when her parents fought over who had to give her shots. This kind of mental toughness would stand her in good stead as she chose her life's goals--discovering that, at that time, diabetics could not become police officers, and figuring that diabetes would also disqualify her for work as a detective like Nancy Drew, she decided she wanted to become a lawyer, like Perry Mason, or better yet, one of the judges who handed down the verdicts for Perry's clients. Hard work in school and encouragement from her high school sweetheart led her to apply to Princeton, even though she had no idea at the time what was meant by an Ivy League school.  Not only was she accepted, but she graduated summa cum laude, another phrase with which she was unfamiliar. After graduating from Yale Law School she chose to work as a prosecutor, racking up valuable and immediate courtroom experience, then went on to a civil law firm where she wore a bulletproof vest and sped around on a motorcycle to catch producers of knock-off handbags when they moved their merchandise from one warehouse to another.  There is much to learn from this fine volume:  about the law, about Puerto Rico, about what is required to rise above poverty and a difficult childhood into a life of extraordinary accomplishment. "My Beloved World" is a fine memoir which disappointingly stops short of Ms. Sotomayor's time on the Bench, but which reveals a young girl and young woman who took on all obstacles with grit, determination, compassion, and a finely honed sense of justice and fair play.


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