Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 312
Although not a conventional memoir, this group of essays and speeches by the eminent U.S. Supreme Court justice provides both personal and professional insights into her long career. By combining legal documents that she wrote with material in numerous different genres, the book effectively conveys Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s versatility, writing skill, and keenly analytical mind, as well as her social and ethical principles—including her Jewish faith.
Ginsburg built her legal reputation, in part, through her pioneering work on gender equality. The material included in the book amply conveys her convictions that gender discrimination (because it is illegal and unconstitutional) harms American society overall, not only the women who were negatively impacted by such discrimination. In additional to legal arguments, My Own Words includes speeches in honor of her sister justices and notable feminist activists.
More generally, the book shows the broad range of Ginsburg’s finely honed legal perceptions through the cases she argued as an attorney and heard as a judge, both prior to and after being seated on the Supreme Court. One of the most important principles she steadfastly upholds is judicial independence. Reminding other Americans constantly of the separation of the three branches of government, Ginsburg emphasizes the importance of impartiality: it is essential that judges are never “under the thumb of other branches of government.”
Ginsburg also includes some lighter aspects, including her lifelong love of music; in addition to speaking about law and opera, she has even appeared as an extra ("super") in professional opera productions. Furthermore, she explains that she shared this love with Antonin Scalia, a fellow Supreme Court justice with whom she was politically at odds. This mutual love of opera consequently inspired the composition of a comedic opera about the two justices. The complex dimensions of this friendship, however, remind the reader of the value of open-mindedness and nonpartisan relationships.
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