Sonia Sotomayor stirs it up with brains and salsa

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

From my review of Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice for Women’s Voices For Change:

At the end of her first term as a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010, Sonia Sotomayor began work on her memoir. In her best-selling My Beloved World (2013), she describes the trajectory that lifted her from a seemingly hopeless beginning as a Puerto Rican child in the Bronx public housing projects to the pinnacle of the American justice system. The brains she was born with, combined with the discipline and self-reliance she needed to stay alive as an 8-year-old who was left to manage her own diabetes, fueled her rise from the projects to the Supreme Court. Along the way, she earned a Princeton degree with highest honors, a law degree from Yale, a job as an assistant district attorney in New York City, and then a judgeship on a federal district court bench.

Court reporter Joan Biskupic picks up the story where Sotomayor left off. Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice is less a biography than a political history. Biskupic was intrigued by the symbiotic intersection of the rise of Latinos in America and the unlikely ascent of the Puerto Rican justice. “Sotomayor had the intelligence and perseverance to do what no other Hispanic had done,” writes Biskupic, but she also needed a constellation of factors, both strategic and fortuitous, to breach the bronze portals of the highest court of the land. Biskupic examines how America’s changing culture and demographics worked in Sotomayor’s favor, and how she used the wheeling and dealing and political strong-arming behind the nomination and confirmation of judges on the federal bench to her advantage by enlisting well-placed supporters and powerful advocacy groups.

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