When Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor set out to write her book “My Beloved World,” she was inspired by a question a journalist asked and that she later asked herself: “Do I really think I had a happy childhood?”
Before Sonia Sotomayor became the first Latina to join the Supreme Court, before going to Yale for law school and Princeton for undergrad, she was a young Puerto Rican girl living in South Bronx struggling to get by.
While growing up in South Bronx, Sotomayor lived with an alcoholic dad and a mom who was emotionally distant. They fought about money, the housework, the drinking and even Sotomayor’s insulin shots when she was diagnosed with diabetes.
It wasn’t as happy a childhood as others had perceived, but what was true about her younger self, was that she worked hard even when she was afraid. Even with all the success in her life, she fought fear all her life. And that, ultimately, is the message of her book.
“If I’ve accomplished anything in my book… [it’s] that people will understand the greatest obstacle they will face in life is not discrimination, it’s their own fear,” she told NPR. “Fear often paralyzes us because what kills you and what stops you is not experiencing new things.”
She encourages young Latinos to experience life even with fear. “I can’t tell you how many Latino kids I still talk to who tell me, ‘I don’t want to go away to go college because I don’t want to leave my family,’” she said. “You don’t leave your family by going away to college for god’s sakes! You enrich your life and theirs by doing something they couldn’t do and bringing back the joy home.”
So for any young Latino out there deciding whether to go away to college or not, take the advice of one of the most powerful Latinas in the United States: You’ll be fine.
Sotomayor has a lot more to say. Get inspired with her interview here
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