Thursday, February 02, 2012

Sonia Sotomayor: The True American Dream

by Antonia Felix

I checked this book out last Thursday and finished it today. It is a biography of Sonia Sotomayor written by a contemporary of Sonia Sotomayor who has never spoken to Sotomayor. The book is based off of interviews with Sonia Sotomayors family and friends and people who used to go to the same school she did even if they weren't family or friends. It also draws from speeches, artilces briefs, and opinions by Sotomayor and articles about Sotomayor by other people. Oddly enough, Felix seems to have taken at face value everything said about Sotomayor as long as it wasn't negative, which makes for a somewhat conflicting story.
The story roughly told is: what Puerto Rico was like in the time of her mother's childhood, her mother's general life story, where Sonia Sotomayor went to school, what she did there, her more prominent escapades, her career, what people have to say about it, particularly if they praise her.
This book has nothing bad to say about Sonia Sotomayor at all. She's perfect! That gets a little bit annoying. But it's a sort of interesting story anyways. Because Sonia Sotomayor has had an interesting life. She was born to Puerto Rican parents in New York city in 1954, and she has one younger brother (he grew up to be a doctor). Her mother was a former WAC and nurse, her father a dye maker. She lived in the projects when people were proud to live in the projects. She was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of eight, after a long period of being withdrawn and quiet, and insulin made her seem to come magically back to life. Her father died the following year, leaving her mother to raise two kids alone. Sonia went to a prestigous Catholic high school while working to help support her family while her mother went to school to get an RN degree. She went to an Ivy League college; her test scores were not as high as those of her classmates but they had instituted affirmative action policies. She struggled but scored well in her classes. She then went to an Ivy League law school, where she "worked hard and partied hard." She also picked up a chain smoking habit. She went from law school to being a prosecutor (assistant Distrist Attorney in New York) then went into practice defending copyrighted bags and stuff like that, then became a judge, then another kind of judge, then supreme court justice. While she was judge, she got to end the baseball strike.

As to her diabetes: while the book suggests that her lack of diabetes complications was because she did everything right, and while it gives evidence that she did take her shots regularly and had very low A1cs consistantly, I think the evidence is stronger to suggest that she doesn't have type 1a diabetes. Why? Well, she didn't, in fact, take spectacular measures to control her diabetes- she took conscientious but ordinary measures to control her diabetes, such as always taking her shots, but still did things like drinking in the way that college students often do, eating no particularly controlled diet, and going long periods without exercise. She was diagnosed in a time period where she couldn't have been testing her blood sugar. Despite this, she never had an episode of severe hypoglycemia or even any episode of hypoglycemia that her coworkers could remember in which she had symptoms. She never had a hospitalization for diabetes, except possibly at diagnosis. She was diagnosed after a lengthy period that was so long that people saw her being quiet and withdrawn as just being normal for her, and she was not very sick when she was diagnosed. She'll be hitting fifty years with diabetes this year, and she has no complications at all. It's not proof that she doesn't have the regular type 1a diabetes, but it's suggestive.
Diabetes is mentioned in the book as one of the reasons she gave for wanting to get a lot of experience in different areas of law quickly- to get as much as possible done in case she died young.

Anyways. I think Sandra Sotomayor is an interesting character and if she ever publishes an autobiography, I'll be interested in reading that, but I think this book is a little too hard to trust.

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