The RD Interview: Sonia Sotomayor

Americans know her as a justice on our nation’s highest court, but this salsa-dancing, baseball-loving New Yorker thinks of herself as “Sonia from the Bronx.”

By Daryl Chen
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine January 2014

Sonia Sotomayor

Courtesy Sonia Sotomayor

Give me the Reader’s Digest version of the theme of your book.
I want people who feel [they have] challenges in their lives to come away believing that despite their difficulties, they can still accomplish a lot. I’m completely honest about the many adversities in my life. One of my main lessons is to always ask for help.

You’re from an atypical background for a Supreme Court justice. Did people back home treat you differently after you were nominated?
There were moments, especially at the beginning of the process! Once, I went to a family Christmas party, and all of a sudden, everybody’s hanging on my every word. At one point, I realized the room was completely silent, and I looked around at them and said, “Cut it out! I’m still Sonia!” [Laughs] Then the talking and screaming and arguing started again.

What’s the best part about being on the Supreme Court?
Having a voice in the decision-making process. And meeting with people and talking to them about our judicial system. There’s something exceedingly gratifying about [that]. I’ve met with groups as young as Head Starters.

How do you explain your job to kids?
I’ve been on Sesame Street. I give a very simplified version of what a judge does. But a lot of younger kids are more interested in presidents than in judicial history, so I’ve had to bone up on my early-history lessons. I do talk to them about how the law helps people solve their problems. It’s all about relationships—family relationships, business relationships—and how you structure those relationships so that conflicting interests can be resolved or harmonized. We’re not solemn.

Next: Her idea of happiness »

Courtesy Sonia Sotomayor

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