At a taping of Overheard with Evan Smith in Austin, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor walked gracefully on to stage in an orange, brown and black outfit with patent leather leopard print heels. She was wearing that knowing, wise smile of hers, answering questions with the cadence of a mature soul. Smith asked her about her new memoir, My Beloved World which I still haven’t had a chance to pick up, though I plan to join the thousands who have already catapulted her memoir to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.
The friend who came with me is married to a great friend of mine, and he’s a political and news junkie. So we hashed out our thoughts on her interview – how kind it was for her to speak to the young Latina girls in the audience as if they were adults as worthy of respect as anyone else (which I’m sure they’ll remember for the rest of their lives!) and her relentless attention to the narrative of hard work, ascent and possibility for anyone – especially if a working-class girl from the Bronx with Type 1 Diabetes who lost her father at a young age could do it.
I suppose what inspires me most about Justice Sotomayor is that she was a girl in the Bronx, like me. She alluded to this in her interview, that she hopes that when people read her memoir, they will finish it and think, “She’s just like me.” Like all of us, she had people try to deter her and marginalize her when she was young. But what separates people who succeed from those we never hear about is that successful people keep trying, she said. Sounds about right to me.
She doesn’t talk a lot about the single life, which I don’t blame her for — during her nomination process, she noted the double standard when people would pry into her personal life in a way they wouldn’t for her married peers. But I was still inspired by glimpses into her philosophy as a single woman using all that free time we supposedly have crafting an extraordinary life.
[When] Sotomayor was asked about not having kids. In response, she said that “families can be made in other ways and I marvel at the support I’ve derived from friends. In their constant embrace, I have never felt alone.” (h/t Bella DePaulo in Top 10 Odes to Single People) Serving as a role model “is the most valuable thing I can do,” she said to a New York Times reporter.
I loved what she had to say in a Q&A with Oprah about the book:
“So many people grew up with challenges, as I did. There weren’t always happy things happening to me or around me. But when you look at the core of goodness within yourself—at the optimism and hope—you realize it comes from the environment you grew up in.”
And on her divorce years ago:
“I was completely consumed with work when I started as a D.A. in Manhattan, and I really wasn’t paying attention to [my husband]. I take full responsibility for that part of the end. But he also, as he later explained to me, began to fear not being as successful as I was. And that led him to think, “Does she really need me?” I loved him and I knew he loved me. But did I need him in the way he wanted me to need him? He was probably right that I didn’t.”