The Making of a Justice: ‘My Beloved World,’ by Sonia Sotomayor

From The New York Times:

SonyaSotomayor’s father died when she was 9, and she thinks to herself, with the sharp pragmatism of a child that age, “Maybe it would be easier this way.” But Sotomayor’s mother did not rise with relief from her loss; she shut herself in her dark bedroom for a long season of grief. So Sotomayor became a library rat, though without any guidance. (She’d never heard of “Alice in Wonderland” until she got to Princeton years later.) Finally, after months of lonely reading and evenings spent silent with her younger brother in front of the television, Sotomayor literally hurled herself at her mother’s door and screamed at her not to die too. It’s another example of her will, and of her instinct for self-preservation. She tells us that her anger with her mother lingered — another bracing dose of honesty. But she also credits her mother with taking steps to better her children’s future: speaking English with them; buying the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Sotomayor responded by figuring out how to excel in school. She asked the smartest girl in her class how to study. In high school, she joined a debating team, and learned how to structure an argument and speak in public. An older student told her about something she’d never heard of — the Ivy League — and she followed him to Prince­ton. “Qualifying for financial aid was the easiest part,” she writes. “There were no assets to report.”

More here.