Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s book tour brought her to the bay area with appearances before the Commonwealth Club on Monday and the Watermark Institute on Tuesday. Justice Sotomayor explained that one of the reasons she wrote her book, My Beloved Country, was so that the reader could feel a connection with her story in some way and be inspired to think if she can make it so can I. She succeeded in a way she probably hadn’t considered because as I sat in the audience of the Herbst Theatre during her Commonwealth Club appearance I thought, “Did I just hear my own coming out story?”
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor
She talked about finding the one person in your life who will love you unconditionally and make you feel secure. In her case it was her grandmother. I know that I lucked out on that score because it was my parents who instilled in me the same feeling that Justice Sotomayor expresses when writing, “Whatever their limitations and frailties, those that raised me loved me and did the best they knew how. Of that I am sure.”
Justice Sotomayor’s Commonwealth Club appearance on March 28
I also related to her saying that you should find a mentor. I’ve always been aware that there were certain people in my life who mentored me and they seemed to come into my life when I needed them. While I never had the gumption to say to them as she advised, “I need to learn what makes you succeed.” I did learn, perhaps more by example than words.
In the context of the Justice’s diabetics, learning to love herself enough to take care of herself took on a physical dimension. Controlling the disease through medication and a careful monitoring of blood sugar makes a full and long life possible. I don’t think I would be alive today if I hadn’t learned to love myself enough to know that living in a closet was not good for my mental health. I think issues of self-worth are something everyone has to deal with. Whatever makes you different, you have to overcome the feeling of not fitting in.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor at Herbst Theatre
She also said that one of the benefits of writing the book was that she found out family stories that she hadn’t known. She urged anyone with aging family members to sit down and talk with them about family history. One of the people she talked with about her history was her uncle who died three months after she had completed her interview with him. I find myself in total agreement as I try to deal with boxes of family history. If only I could ask my uncle about this picture.
Posing with her new book before sitting down to sign hundreds of copies.
She said in both appearances that she decided she had to write an honest memoir because in reading other memoirs she was some times left with the question, “Did I learn anything I didn’t already know? Was I inspired?” I can definitely answer yes to both questions when it comes to Justice Sotomayor’s book, “My Beloved Country.”