From the tenements of the South Bronx to the ivy towers of Princeton and Yale to the venerated chambers of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s rags-to-riches story is the focus of her forthcoming memoir, “My Beloved World,” to be published by Knopf in January.
Sotomayor, the first Latina and third woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, received an advance of nearly $1.2 million for the book, which will be published simultaneously in English and Spanish. According to the AP, which received an advance copy of the memoir, Sotomayor is unusually candid, recounting stories of losing her father to alcoholism and her cousin to AIDS, as well as explaining her own battles with diabetes, a disease which played a big part in her decision not to have children. One area into which the book does not delve: her years serving as a Supreme Court justice and as a US district and appeals court judge.
The children of Puerto Rican natives, Sotomayor grew up in a tenement in the South Bronx where English was rarely spoken. Her family was so poor that they never had a bank account, according to early reviews of the book. She was diagnosed with diabetes at just eight and lost her father to alcoholism when she was nine.
The 58-year-old’s lifelong battle with diabetes colored much of her life. In the book she recounts several episodes in which she blacks out and is found unconscious, “including by a roommate at Princeton, a client in Venice, Italy, and a friend’s barking dog.”
The disease, and her fear that she might die early due to it, also played a major role in her decision not to have children, writes Sotomayor, a decision she still occasionally regrets. As a result, reports the AP, “she is godmother to more children than anyone she knows.”
Sotomayor is a staunch defender of affirmative action, thanks to which she was admitted to Princeton University and Yale Law School, where she received a place in the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and graduated with the highest honors. Unlike her fellow justice Clarence Thomas, who also benefited from affirmative action, Sotomayor has famously defended the practice, which she says is “needed to get disadvantaged students to the starting line of a race to success.”
The Supreme Court justice also writes painfully of losing her cousin to AIDS. She was working as a prosecutor when she gave her cousin a ride to what he later told her was a drug den in the Bronx, where he shot up heroin inside. He eventually died of AIDS, which Sotomayor said he contracted though a contaminated needle.
Sotomayor also reveals details about her own battle with cigarettes, which she used to smoke at a rate of three-and-a-half packs a day, until her young niece began imitating her with an imaginary cigarette, leading Sotomayor to spend time in a residential program to quit smoking.