Tag Archives: five stars

Book Review: My Beloved World

I recently finished the latest in my series of Audible books by bad-ass bitches.

This week’s offering:

sotomayor

I read this with my ears during my commute and it was brilliant.

The Blurb

With startling candor and intimacy, Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.  She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality: valedictorian of her high school class, summa cum laude at Princeton, Yale Law, prosecutor in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, private practice, federal district judge before the age of forty. She writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends. 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-discovery and self-invention, alongside Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father

The Review

Sonia Sotomayor kicks ass. She was raised in the Bronx Projects, the daughter of Puerto Ricans who’d met and married after the war. Her parents spoke very little English, her father was an alcoholic who died young, her mother worked her fanny off to support he two kids, and at age eight, Sonia was diagnosed with Type I diabetes – which at the time was akin to a death sentence.

When given a list of professions that were okay for Type I diabetics to pursue, she was disappointed that police office was a definite “no.” She’d wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew, but knew that in the absence of a wealthy lawyer father, she might not be able to make it on her own the way Nancy did.

So she set her sights on the law, with the eventual childhood dream of becoming a judge – knowing even then that was a long shot.

But experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And, after a time, you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you’ve closed the distance to some far off goal, but the quality of what you’ve done today.

This book talks about how she went from a mediocre student to a fantastic student. It was all about the gold stars (something we have in common). After her father died and her mother came out of her grief, they began speaking English at home, which helped immensely as well.

She ended up going to Princeton! And then Yale Law. And then the Manhattan’s DA office – not the typical lawerly path a Yale Law grad takes (private practice being more common and, I’m guessing, more lucrative).

Justice Sotomayor during a brief stint representing the muppets in court.

Justice Sotomayor passing down some harsh judgment on the Muppets of Sesame Street

Each of those new environs brought their own challenges, but with her sheer brilliance and determination, she not only succeeded, she kicked the highest level of ass. After the first time she lost a case as an ADA, she studied it, figured out where she went wrong, and then never again lost a case. Some of that might have come from her refusal to prosecute cases she thought had no business being tried.

The first year that I face the challenges of any new environment has always been a time of fevered insecurity. A reflexive terror that I’ll fall flat on my face. In this self-imposed probationary period, I work with compulsive intensity and single-mindedness until I gradually feel more confident.

She’d married her high school sweetheart between Princeton and Yale, and they split up while she was working in Manhattan and commuting back to Princeton where Kevin was in school. She doesn’t dwell overmuch on this in the book, but never tries to hide her own role in the dissolution of their marriage.

Being with someone never seems simpler than when you’re very young.

After leaving the DA’s office for Pavia & Harcourt where she learned a lot about business and international law, as well as trademarks (and got to meet the fanciest Italians ever), she quickly moved up to partner (in three years) and was there when she was nominated for a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. At 36, she was already seeing her dreams of a federal judgeship come true.

Justice Sotomayor doesn’t talk about anything regarding the Supreme Court, which makes sense to me as she’s still there! I’m looking forward to the sequel after she retires (which is unlikely to be soon).

Notable Quotes

  1. If you want to change someone’s mind, you must understand what need shapes his or her opinion. To prevail, you must first listen…
  2. Even a little romance can do wonders if you’re prepared to enjoy the moment and let the moments accumulate whatever may come of it.
  3. Although wisdom is built on life experience, the mere accumulation of years means nothing.
  4. You can always look up answers to specific questions in specific situations[…]so long as you have enough experience to know that a question exists. Learning the rules isn’t hard when you’re aware that there’s a rule to learn.

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Emotional Kickers

There was so much loss in her life. Her father; her beloved grandmother; a cousin – lost first to drugs and then to HIV caused by intravenous drug use; her marriage; a close friend and mentor at Pavia & Harcourt.  Every time, she asks herself “Why not me?” She’d been given to expect a shorter than average lifespan. When she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes, the life expectancy was not great. It is, of course, better now – but the number of times she found herself in life threatening situations is truly terrifying.

But through it all, she has her rocks – her beloved Abuelita until her death. Her Mami (when they aren’t fighting), her brother (when they grow into that sibling relationship), and so many good friends.

Even when accused of being brash or bitchy (or a brazen Jewish woman), she still finds the right people to support her, lift her up, and tell her when she needs to back down.

It makes me wonder what spark she has within her that so many lack. Maybe it’s the ability to find the right group of people who complemented her strengths, mitigated her weaknesses, and shored her up when she was sagging. That is truly a gift beyond measure.

Cocktail Party

My new dream is to have a bad-ass bitches cocktail party with Secretary Albright, Justice Sotomayor, Amy Schumer (remember our moment in Vegas, Amy? Call me!), one of my favourite authors EVAH, and my PSM. Of course, I’d probably pass out from the anxiety of being around that many people, so I’m gonna have to call in the Notorious RBG to keep me calmed down.

notorious RBG

Time Commitment

The audio book wasn’t terribly long (12 1/2 hours) and it was worth every second.

Verdict

Sonia Sotomayor is awesome. Star_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_Claim

Book Reviewsday!

Because it rhymes with Tuesday? And I thought I could maybe make it a thing?

 

I am a huge fan of my PSM‘s book reviews, partially because they often come with recipes for things that I want someone to make me. It’s not that I’m not gifted in the kitchen (because oh, can I turn up the heat in there!) it’s just that cooking and/or baking is not currently a priority in my life.

So, this is not going to be a PSM-level review. I’m just not that girl. However, I do like to read AND write AND write about things I’ve read, so you’re just going to have to accept that. (Or, alternatively, close the browser. Whatever.)

(Also, if you’re even in need of sending me gifts but don’t know where to start: it’s here. THERE IS A MOUNTED UNICORN HEAD! WHY DON’T I HAVE ONE OF THOSE!)

Sooooo – book review!

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What’s it all about?

In this outspoken and much-praised memoir, the highest-ranking woman in American history shares her remarkable story and provides an insider’s view of world affairs during a period of unprecedented turbulence. A national bestseller on its first publication in 2003, Madam Secretary combines warm humor with profound insights and personal testament with fascinating additions to the historical record.

Initial Thoughts

I might be a little bit in love with Secretary Albright. (Since I’d also said something similar about Margaret Atwood after reading her Negotiating With the Dead, it’s possible that I might have a thing for women of a certain age – and that age is about 40 years older than me.)

This book primarily focused on her time as Ambassador to the UN (Clinton’s first term) and Secretary of State (Clinton’s second term), but did start off with her childhood, college years, marriage, children, divorce, and jobs that she held through the years.

You guys, Madeleine Albright is kind of amazing. She got married immediately after graduating college, had a bunch of kids (three), and still pushed her way through a PhD in 1975 (when her twins were 15 and she was 38 – the age I am RIGHT NOW).

She was divorced in the early 80s (because her husband was, and this is NOT a quote, a philandering douche-canoe) and after a period of feeling lost, she rose from the ashes like a fucking phoenix and became even more badass.

Jean Grey wishes she were as awesome Madeleine Albright.

Quotable Notes

Okay – so I have a small problem here. I listened to this instead of read it, and accidentally deleted all my bookmarks so I only have my memory of my favorite bits. This is, therefore, not Notable Quotes and is instead random memories.

Secretary Albright went on a trip with Larry Pressler (R-SD, former) and he was an idiot. This does not surprise me, but it made me cringe a bit since I am formerly from South Dakota and hate when our elected officials are dumb. Even after repeatedly being told that the phones were bugged and the cars were bugged, he kept saying things about meeting with members of the resistance. He would be a terrible spy.

When speaking of Javier Solana (the former Secretary-General of NATO) she described him as bearded and brainy, and then said (and this is pretty close to the quote): “He may have been a physicist, we sure had chemistry.”

At one point while Secretary of State, she choreographed (and I’m assuming starred in) a parody of West Side Story with the Russian contingent at the annual Association of SouthEast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) conference in 1998. Apparently such performances were apparently normal at this event, but I would still pay money to see Albright and then-Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov sing a duet together.

In conclusion

This book was amazing. I’d read (well, listened to Madeleine Albright read) it in tandem with reading Gloria Steinem’s memoir Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions and  finished that period of my life full of feminist outrage and woman-power vigor. Out of the two, though, I prefer Madeleine.

Her story was so inspirational, and listening to her read it was an amazing experience. She is brilliant (in addition to her degrees, she speaks four languages fluently and is literate in at least two others – which not incidentally is my new life goal) and smart. She was the first female US Secretary of State and, at the time, the highest ranking woman in the US government in history. She moved through the Clinton presidency weathering political scandals (uhhh – it was Clinton), personal bombshells (she found out around the time of her swearing-in as Secretary of State that not only were her parents ethnic Jews (she’d never known) but that 3/4 of her grandparents had perished in concentration camps during the Holocaust. It’s odd to me that this became a scandal, but there you have it), and some crazy international issues (there are too many to list here, but in her eight years serving the Clinton presidency, there was the Black Hawk/Somalia incident, Rwandan genocide, the bombing of the embassy in Nairobi, as well as the civil wars, unrest, and genocide in Eastern Europe).

What appealed to me most, beyond the fact that she is intelligent, powerful, and inspiring (and can reportedly leg press 400 lbs), is that she is unexpectedly funny and a little bit salty.  (My favorite quote from the book was in response to Cuba shooting down two civilian airplanes outside of Cuban airspace, “This is not cojones. This is cowardice.”

The audiobook was long (24 1/2 hours) but it was worth every second.

Verdict

Madeleine Albright is awesome. Star_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_ClaimStar_Claim

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