Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 750
My Beloved World is the memoir of associate Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. Appointed by President Obama in 2009, Sotomayor is the first ever Hispanic justice in the court’s history. My Beloved World follows Sotomayor's path from her childhood in the Bronx to the highest legal office in the country. Though she credits her impressive achievements to her family, values, and devotion to hard work, Sotomayor also frankly details the ways in which larger social inequalities like racism, sexism, and poverty act as a barrier to success.
The story begins with Sotomayor's childhood in the projects of the South Bronx in New York City. At age seven, Sotomayor was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. At the time, diabetes was very difficult to manage, and life expectancy for children diagnosed with the disease was much lower than it is today. Her condition, which required daily insulin injections, forced her to become responsible at a young age. She quickly understood that only she could effectively manage her diabetes, and when her parents struggled to give her insulin injections, she learned to do them herself.
The daughter of two immigrants from Puerto Rico, Sotomayor describes a childhood that was far from idyllic. She had a somewhat strained relationship with her parents, who often fought. Her father was an alcoholic and died when she was nine. After her father’s death, her mother isolated herself behind a closed door, making herself a remote presence in her children's lives. In response, Sonia turned to reading and watching legal shows such as Perry Mason on TV (which inspired her to become a lawyer). Despite her complicated relationship with her parents, Sotomayor developed an extremely close bond with her paternal grandmother (Abuelita), whom she loved deeply and frequently visited.
Though her family was not wealthy, Sotomayor's mother insisted that the children attend a local Catholic elementary school, where the sisters enforced discipline through physical punishments. During the summers, Sotomayor occasionally visited Puerto Rico with her family. After developing an early love for reading, Sotomayor began to excel in school. She joined Forensics Club, which (she later realized) helped her develop the skills of a successful lawyer, including the ability to critically analyze, speak publicly, and persuade others. She ultimately became the valedictorian of her high school and chose to attend Princeton University for college.
Initially, Sotomayor felt different from the other students at Princeton and unsure of herself as a student. Comparing herself to fellow students who had access to AP courses and other academic opportunities in high school, she began to feel that she was lagging behind her wealthy and privileged peers academically. This realization only drove her to work harder, and she committed herself to remaining a “student for life.” Despite a rocky start, she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and went on to attend Yale Law School. Sotomayor married Kevin Noonan, her high school boyfriend, the summer before starting at Yale.
After law school, she joined the New York district attorney's office, going on to become assistant district attorney. Her work, though fulfilling, was very time-consuming, and she and Kevin began to drift apart and ultimately decided to separate. Since her aspiration was to become a judge, Sotomayor eventually left the DA’s office to work in a law firm, hoping that this would give her a greater breadth of legal knowledge and experience. After becoming a partner in her firm, she was nominated for a position as a judge for the Southern District of New York in 1992. During her first month as a judge, Sotomayor recalls feeling terrified, like an “imposter” in her own courtroom. In the end, her talent and true passion for the law helped her overcome her fears, and she finally felt as though she had found her place.
Sotomayor was eventually nominated by Bill Clinton to serve as a judge on the Second Circuit of the US Court of Appeals. Finally, in 2009, she was nominated by Barack Obama to serve as an associate justice on the US Supreme Court. In the epilogue of her memoir, she attributes her success to her desire to always be learning. Sotomayor contends that, good or bad, every experience and every person encountered is an opportunity for learning and growth. The memoir ends as she recounts being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. Thankful to be surrounded by her supportive family and the memory of her beloved Abuelita, she thinks, “I am blessed. In this life I am truly blessed.”
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