Monday, March 6, 2017

Notorious RBG - Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader GinsburgOne of the categories for my 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge is "A book about an interesting woman."  The clear choice for this, for me, was RBG--Ruth Bader Ginsberg, one of the Supreme Court Justices and the most senior of the liberal side of the court.  I took a few law classes in school and we read many of her opinions--both majority and dissents--during those classes.  Her opinions sizzle.  One of them absolutely slams Congress, essentially saying that the Court shouldn't really be ruling on the issue at hand, but something has to be done about it, and Congress is refusing to do their jobs, so the Court is going to do it.  Wow.  Love it.  But there was a lot about RBG herself that I really didn't know, so this was a great opportunity to fit the book into my reading queue.

This a good overview, I think.  There aren't a ton of books about RBG, which I totally understand because, well, she's still alive.  It's hard to write a comprehensive biography of someone who isn't done with her life and venerable career.  But it gives some background and some insight as to where RBG comes from in the development of her ideals and what she'll do for them.  And it's not just her judicial background and time as a lawyer before that, but her life, too, and there were so many little anecdotes that you would never guess from just seeing RBG or reading her work.  Like her long, loving relationship with her husband, Marty, who cooked all the meals and who RBG once chased around her office with scissors, and who baked cakes for the clerks' birthdays at the Court.

I was surprised to learn a lot of the stuff behind RBG's professional life.  She's actually considered to be a very moderate justice, though she has a firm stance on equality, and is known to be one of the most thoughtful justices.  And then there's how she actually isn't a huge fan of Roe v. Wade; while she supports a woman's right to have an abortion, she felt that Roe didn't come in a great way, that it focuses on privacy rather than equality, and that sweeping decisions like Roe can ultimately be more easily disregarded later on--something that I think we've definitely seen in the recent spate of abortion regulations popping up across the countries which seemingly have nothing to do with actual health regulations.

However, I did have a few issues with this book.  First, it's very short, and consequently very surface-level.  While there are excerpts of some of her opinions that the authors dig into a bit, but I would have liked to see more analysis in general.  It also jumps around in time.  Just when I thought we were firmly into her life as a justice, there'd be a jump that would go back to when she was a lawyer and professor, and it was a bit confusing.  Those transitions also weren't very smooth.  And this is not a book meant to be read on Kindle--the formatting for it is absolutely terrible.

I really did enjoy this book, but I wish it had been a bit less superficial and that it just been organized a bit better.  Still, this offered a lot of snaps of RBG that I don't think most people know about, and they definitely made her more human rather than just the imposing (though tiny) justice who rules from the bench.

4 stars out of 5.

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