Book Review: Justice Sotomayor’s “My Beloved World”

by Andrea Nocito

Andrea is a 2017 graduate of Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and is admitted to the California State Bar. Andrea is currently available for temporary, contract and project-based work, with the goal of a long-term position helping innovators bring technologies to market as a transactional lawyer. 

The winter break of my 2L year, a dear friend gave me some light reading. She assumed that since I’d been on a 16 week bender of reading law books, I couldn’t just come to an abrupt halt as I waited for grades to be posted and news about summer internships. Wasn’t she funny? Luckily, she gave me a great book, My Beloved World, written by our Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. I did not expect to delight in this book, but it renewed my spirit before returning to school, and I still think of the Justice’s stories today.

Justice Sotomayor shares insight into her childhood, her diabetes diagnosis, being the child of an alcoholic, an adoring father, the daunting experience of being a Latina at Princeton in the early 1970s, working on the university’s first computer database, letting go of your first love, refusing to submit an application for the federal district court, her family’s journey to the Bronx from Puerto Rico, balancing her personal life with her career (look, if she can do it, you and I have no excuse) and much more. What you will take from her words is exactly what she takes away from her life experiences: richness.

She begins the book as any person would, I suppose, describing her childhood. Justice Sotomayor is the embodiment of the American Dream having come from hard knocks, having worked diligently to make something of herself, and having achieved notoriety. I am going to encourage you to set all of that valuable work aside. Instead, let the reason you read this book be because you want to connect with Sonia, who is not at all unlike yourself.

She’ll make you feel at home in her home. I mostly grew up in San Antonio, Texas, a city brimming with Mexican history married with moments of that famous Texas pride, and southern charm. This Spanish-Indian influence is celebrated, valued, and frankly unknown to 99% of Americans. San Antonio is filled with comforting friendliness, food so zesty that your taste buds come alive, and music so vibrant that it embeds love into your soul. In a similar experience, Justice Sotomayor shares her Puerto Rican culture and Bronx life giving us vibrant characters, acts of generosity, and love.

She got yelled at, too. “‘No me molestes! Go play in the other room now,’ an aunt would say, shooing me away. . .” (Chapter one). If I had a dollar for every time my parents shooed us away…well, I could afford a quaint retirement home for them. Ha!

Ok, so maybe she is a little different from you or me. In chapter 13 she writes, “I perceived beauty in it [logic and philosophy class], the idea of an order that held under any circumstances. What excited me most was how I could immediately apply it down the hall in debate practice. I was amazed that something so mathematically pure and abstract could transform into human persuasion, into words with the power to change people’s minds.” It’s no wonder she became a lawyer. Logic is the foundation of how we begin advocating for our clients. Strategically applying that line of reasoning, illuminating pressure points in the opposing side’s logic, and carefully crafting each sentence is how we persuade a judge or jury. Had anyone described philosophy to me THAT way, I might have enjoyed it a little more.

She has a gift for taking in complexities. Justice Sotomayor describes a scene from her childhood (you can hear her tell this story at the podcast What It Takes, available at which impacted her over and over again in life. A grammar school teacher often recognized the successes of students by giving out stars. Little Sonia hadn’t received stars because her grades were subpar. Little Sonia just had to have those stars. (I relate to this on a spiritual level. I want all the stars in life. Luckily now, those stars have turned into more meaningful rewards like peace of mind, a career path with a mission, etc.). On her quest to be starific, she asked a friend, someone whom she is still friends with today (how magical is that?!), how she earned good grades. Donna taught Little Sonia how to study by reading passages, zeroing in on important details, making notes about those important details, reviewing those details often, and not moving on to a new passage until she had fully comprehended the work. I bet you just had a vision of yellow highlights across your Con Law book didn’t you? Same here. Every time something was difficult or unfamiliar to Sonia the student and eventually, Sonia the professional, Justice Sotomayor would go back to this learning method. She mulls things over until she can articulate those things clearly.

She has a gift for framing complexities. Read any one of the Justice’s opinions and you’ll immediately realize she is the ideal lawyer. She so plainly articulates a rule, a situation, and especially the grey area of the law. Hand that opinion to a non lawyer and they’ll get just as much out of it. Time and time again, this gift helped her win trials as a district attorney, and her later work in intellectual property. Later on, this gift persuaded the Senate 68 to 31 to make her the third female and first Hispanic to serve on the United States Supreme Court.

I could gush about her all day. But you came to read a review about her book. So here are a few more things that might entice you to pick it up:

  • She’s funny.
  • Her breakup with Kevin, her first love, will give you all the feels.
  • You’re gonna want her to write more . . . starting with where she ends her book, the day of her swearing into the Supreme Court.

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