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My Beloved World

Cover of My Beloved World

My Beloved World

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The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.

Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself. She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney's office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America's infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.



From the Hardcover edition.

The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.

Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself. She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney's office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America's infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.



From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From Chapter 11

    I was working my way through the summer reading list when Lord of the Flies brought me to a halt. I wasn't ready to start another book when I finished that one. I'd never read anything so layered with meaning: it haunted me, and I needed to think about it some more. But I didn't want to spend the whole break doing nothing but reading and watching TV. Junior was happy shooting baskets all the daylight hours, but there wasn't much else going on around the projects if you were too old for the playground and not into drugs. Orchard Beach still beckoned, roasting traffic and all, but getting there was a trek you couldn't make every day. Besides, without Abuelita's laugh and the anticipation of her overgenerous picnic in the trunk, without Gallego gunning the engine of a car packed with squirming kids, somehow it just wasn't the same.

    So I decided to get a job. Mami and Titi Carmen were sitting in Abuelita's kitchen over coffee when I announced my plan. There were no shops or businesses in the projects, but maybe I could find someone to hire me in Abuelita's old neighborhood. Titi Carmen still lived on Southern Boulevard and worked nearby at United Bargains. The momandpop stores under the El wouldn't hire kids--leaning on family labor rather than paying a stranger--but the bigger retailers along Southern Boulevard might. I proposed to walk down the street and inquire in each one. "Don't do that," said Titi Carmen. "Let me ask Angie." Angie was Titi Carmen's boss.

    My mother meanwhile looked stricken and bit her lip. She didn't say anything until Titi had gone home. Then, for the first time, she told me a little bit about her own childhood: about sewing and ironing handkerchiefs for Titi Aurora since before she could remember, for hours every day. "I resented it, Sonia. I don't want you to grow up feeling like I did." She went on to apologize for being unable to buy us more things but still insisted it would be even worse if I blamed her one day for depriving me of a childhood.
    I didn't see that coming. Nobody was forcing me to work. Sure, a little pocket money would be nice, but that wasn't the main motivation. "Mami, I want to work," I told her. She'd worked too hard all her life to appreciate that leisure could mean boredom, but that's what I knew I'd be facing if I sat home all summer. I promised never to blame her. In that moment, I began to understand how hard my mother's life had been.

    Titi Carmen reported back that Angie was willing to hire me for a dollar an hour. That was less than minimum wage, but since I wasn't old enough to work legally anyway, they would just pay me off the books. I would take the bus, meet Titi Carmen at her place, and then we'd walk over to United Bargains together. That became our routine. It wasn't a neighborhood where you walked alone.

    United Bargains sold women's clothing. I pitched in wherever needed: restocking, tidying up, monitoring the dressing rooms. I was supposed to watch for the telltale signs of a shoplifter trying to disappear behind the racks, rolling up merchandise to stuff in a purse.

    Junkies were especially suspect. They were easy to spot by the shadow in their eyes, though the tracks on their arms were hidden under long sleeves even in summer. There was never an argument, never a scene. Once in a while I had to say, "Take it out." Most of the time I didn't need to utter a word. She would pull the garment out of her bag, put it back on the hanger, or maybe hand it to me, our eyes never meeting as she slinked out. We always let them go. There wasn't much choice: in a precinct that had come to be known as Fort Apache, the Wild West, the cops had their hands full...

About the Author-
  • Sonia Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976 and from Yale Law School in 1979. She worked as an assistant district attorney in New York and then at the law firm of Pavia & Harcourt. From 1992 to 1998, she served as a judge of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, and from 1998 to 2009 on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In May 2009, President Barack Obama nominated her as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; she assumed this role on August 8, 2009.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 19, 2012
    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, born poor in the South Bronx and appointed to the federal bench as its first Hispanic justice, 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. In some respects, her story—that of a second-generation immigrant rallying familial support, educational opportunities, and plenty of ambition and discipline to realize the American dream—is familiar, but her extraordinary success makes her experience noteworthy. 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. 16 pages of photos. Announced first printing: 200,000. Agent: Peter Bernstein, Bernstein Literary Agency.

  • Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

    "A compelling and powerfully written memoir about identity and coming of age...If the outlines of Justice Sotomayor's life are well known by now, her searching and emotionally intimate memoir, My Beloved World, nonetheless has the power to surprise and move the reader...This account of her life is revealing, keenly observed and deeply felt...This insightful memoir underscores just how well Justice Sotomayor mastered the art of narrative. It's an eloquent and affecting testament to the triumph of brains and hard work over circumstance, of a childhood dream realized through extraordinary will and dedication."

  • Emily Bazelon, The New York Times Book Review "The book delivers on its promise of intimacy in its depictions of Sotomayor's family, the corner of Puerto Rican immigrant New York where she was raised and the link she feels to the island where she spent childhood summers ...This is a woman who knows where she comes from and has the force to bring you there. Sotomayor does this by being cleareyed about the flaws of the adults who raised her--she lets them be complicated...'I've spent my whole life learning how to do things that were hard for me,' Sotomayor tells an acquaintance when he asks whether becoming a judge will be difficult for her. Yes, she has. And by the time you close My Beloved World, you understand how she has mastered judging, too."
  • John Wilwol, Washingtonian "With buoyant humor and thoughtful candor, she recounts her rise from a crime-infested neighborhood in the South Bronx to the nation's highest court. 'I will be judged as a human being by what readers find here,' Sotomayor writes. We, the jury in this case, find her irresistible."
  • Adam Liptak, The New York Times "Sotomayor turns out to be a writer of depth and literary flair...My Beloved World is steeped in vivid memories of New York City, and it is an exceptionally frank account of the challenges that she faced during her ascent from a public housing project to the court's marble palace on First Street."
  • Grace Bello, Christian Science Monitor "You'll see in Sotomayor a surprising wealth of candor, wit, and affection. No topic is off limits, not her diabetes, her father's death, her divorce, or her cousin's death from AIDS. Put the kettle on, reader, it's time for some real talk with Titi Sonia...The author shines in her passages on childhood, family, and self-discovery. Her magical portraits of loved ones bring to mind Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street; both authors bring a sense of childlike wonder and empathy to a world rarely seen in books, a Latin-American and womancentric world."
  • Nina Totenberg, NPR "This is a page-turner, beautifully written and novelistic in its tale of family, love and triumph. It hums with hope and exhilaration. This is a story of human triumph."
  • Dahlia Lithwick, The Washington Post "Big-hearted...A powerful defense of empathy...She has spent her life imagining her way into the hearts of everyone around her...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."
  • Carla Main, Wall Street Journal "My Beloved World" is filled with inspiring, and surprisingly candid, stories about how the Supreme Court's first Hispanic justice overcame a troubled childhood to attend Princeton and Yale Law School, eventually earning a seat on the nation's highest court."
  • Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast "Remarkable...A portrait of a genuinely interesting person."
  • Jay Wexler, Boston Globe "In a refreshing conversational style, Sotomayor tells her fascinating life story with the hope of providing "comfort, perhaps even inspiration" to others, particularly children, who face hard times. "People who live in difficult circumstances," Sotomayor writes in her preface, "need to know that happy endings are possible."
  • Jason Farago, NPR "Classic Sotomayor: intelligent, gregarious and at times disarmingly personal...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...I certainly hope My Beloved World in
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