Thursday, April 7, 2016

"Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" by Irin Carmen and Shana Knizhnik

As a female law student, and at RBG's alma mater nonetheless, I am embarrassed by my previous lack of knowledge regarding Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I knew her as an admirable, inspiring Justice, but hadn't given much thought to her career prior to the Court beyond vaguely assuming it was impressive. "Notorious RBG" set me straight.

RBG has dedicated her career to advocating for women. She argued six gender equality cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them, and was an architect of the legal fight for true gender equality. It's an issue about which she still cares deeply, as can be seen in her ringing dissents. Full of facts and fun trivia (RBG took a European Literature course taught by Vladimir Nabokov, author of "Lolita" while at Cornell!), "Notorious RBG" provides insight into RBG's life, both public and private.

The authors are a journalist and the founder of the Notorious RBG tumblr, who was a law student at the time. They write simply - middle school children could read, understand, and be inspired by this biography. Yet, adults will still learn from RBG's life and be entertained by the authors' light approach. RBG's briefs and opinions are helpfully annotated for the non-legal reader, and the authors interviewed dozens of people close to RBG including former clerks, colleagues. They even fact-checked with RBG herself.  Readers with a legal background may find it too simplified, but I found the conversational tone & lighthearted approach made for a fast, enjoyable read.

Verdict: Affirmed. If you also have an embarrassing gap in your RBG knowledge or are looking to be inspired by an incredible, history-making figure, check this one out.

"Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg" by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, published Oct. 27, 2015 by Dey Street Books.

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