From the Bronx Housing Project to graduating Summa Cum Laude from Princeton, and Yale Law School and then becoming a district attorney, and finally becoming a federal judge and US Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor’s journey is nothing short of perseverance, determination, great effort and a little of luck. Though I know the ending of the story (she became a US Supreme Court Justice), the memoir reads like a thriller full of twists and turns like a novel. Hard to imagine the Perry Mason show could have inspired her to reach the ultimate goal of being a Supreme Court Justice.
My lessons learned from reading this book:
1. Being a Type 1 diabetes since 8 years old in a poor family and an alcoholic and yet loving father, Sotomayor beats the odds and turns the disadvantage into a constant reminder of her mortality and works with great sense of urgency toward achieving her goal of becoming a judge. That’s a lesson for most of us endowed with reasonably good health.
2. From her memoir, I learned a little bit of dilemma of Porto Rico and its residents. Is it a US territory with all the benefits of being part of US or a true second-class entity caught in a web of history and politics? Probably both. Would love to visit Porto Rico someday as she painted a picture of a paradise.
3. Having the right mentors and advocates makes a huge difference. She had several good mentors and advocates (like Senator Daniel Moynihan) along the way.
4. She could have gone the way of her childhood pal, Nelson, who ended up being a junkie and died of AIDS at his young age of 30. Two people growing up in almost the same environment came out very differently. The shocking tidbit was when she drove unknowingly her friend to a heroin joint to shoot up while she waited outside as an off-duty district attorney.
5. Like a good judge, Sotomayor is brutally honest about her marriage and her analysis of the situation in retrospect painted a pretty dire picture of the people in the law enforcement sector. They’re so independent and self-preserving – making the relationship difficult with their loved ones. Here’s a good video interview of Sotomayor by Oprah.
6. Behind a successful person is a cast of people cheering her/him on. Sotomayor has loving relationships with her mother, and her brother (“Jr.” as she called him), her grandma, and aunts. She attributes her success to her hard work and to their support.
7. On Affirmative Action, Sotomayor was clearly a successful case out of the Affirmative Acton movement and hence supporting the policy. I wonder without it, where Sotomayor and her brother would end up? With a little of luck (being born in the Affirmative Action era) and a lot of effort on her part, she came a long way to get to where she is now.
8. There is so much Spanish, her native tongue, in this book. It made me want to learn Spanish. Maybe I will some day learn Spanish to reduce the likelihood of an Alzheimer disease as the study shows.
Overall, this is a great memoir for those who enjoy a good real-life underdog-turn-victor story. The depth and the honesty of the author makes the book a real joy to read.