My Beloved World
Knopf, $27.95, 302 pp.
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently remarked from the bench that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 perpetuated “racial entitlement,” his fellow Justice Sonia Sotomayor responded with a question. “Do you think the right to vote is a racial entitlement?” she asked the lawyer seeking to have the law overturned. As every Court watcher on the planet reported, her tone was sharp. And as My Beloved World makes clear, that response was nothing new: Sotomayor has spent a lifetime challenging offensive remarks about minorities and the poor.
This memoir focuses on Sotomayor’s early years, taking us up to her first appointment as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York when she was thirty-eight. Most of her remarks about the law and the legal profession are quite judicious, lacking the edge of her “racial entitlement” question. The book’s power comes from Sotomayor’s evident excitement in uncovering rich memories of growing up poor in Bronx housing projects and dreaming of becoming a judge. My Beloved World’s unveiling of the personal details of the author’s life, from the failure of her youthful marriage to a discussion of her body image (“great I don’t look”), is more...