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 Sonia Sotomayor talks about her new book, 'Turning Pages: My Life Story'

Supreme Court justice tells Long Island kids how she overcame hardships in her life, and what her favorite color is.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Kidsday reporters,

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor with Kidsday reporters, from left, Jacqueline Romero, Dunia Lizama, Justin Ruiz Castro and Benjamin Connaught at Penguin Books offices in Manhattan. Photo Credit: Newsday/Pat Mullooly

On Sept. 17, which just happened to be Constitution Day, we got the chance to interview Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor about her new book, “Turning Pages: My Life Story” (Philomel Books).

As you probably know, Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina to sit on the highest court in the United States. She was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama. We asked her about the illustrator of the new book, Lulu Delacre. She said the illustrator is a great artist and spent a lot of time researching her life and the events that happened in her entire life. She told us to look at the cover and we can find many hints about her as a young child. Justice Sotomayor said the artist didn’t leave any detail out.  

We asked her what kind of advice she would give to kids who struggle and feel like they want to quit. She shared a quote that former Vice President Joe Biden told her that he got from his mom. It went something like this: Never judge a successful person by their accomplishments but by how many times they failed and tried again. Keep trying and never quit.  

We were also curious why she decided to become a lawyer. She told us she was inspired by the television show “Perry Mason.” In the show Perry Mason was a lawyer and solved many cases.

Just to be funny, we asked her if she ever uses the gavel to mash tostones, or twice-fried plantains. She laughed at that one. Her mom used a wooden thing to mash tostones (yum). We also noticed that all the judges' robes are black, and we asked her if she could change the color, what would it be and why. Red is her favorite color, and then she explained why they wear black, and that is to keep everyone looking the same. She also mentioned that in some other countries the judges wear other colors, and their robes may be fancy with fur and jewels. We’re glad some of our questions made her laugh.

We wanted to know about college experiences, too. We asked if she ever struggled and if so, who helped her. She told us she always did well on tests since she studied and scored well, but her writing needed improvement. One of her professors helped her and gave her a book on grammar. She worked very hard by reading and writing to improve her skills, and it paid off.  We also wanted to know what kind of advice she would give to students who wanted to quit because something was too hard. She told us that just because something is hard and you don’t know it, you may not be there yet but you are on the way and you’ll get there eventually. Work hard, put the extra time into it and never allow anyone to convince you to give up because you can do anything you put your mind to. We thought that was really good advice and it worked for her.

We all thought her book “Turning Pages” was pretty amazing. Justice Sotomayor said she had a little bit of trouble in class but asked another student for help, and they worked together to study more and understand what was going on in the classes. We had no idea that Justice Sotomayor had been diagnosed with diabetes at a young age. This was written about in her book, but she told us some stories about finding out she had diabetes. It must have been very hard for her, and she was frightened by the needle and would hide under the car so she wouldn’t have to feel the needle. Her parents were very frightened for her, too. They didn’t like to give her the shots she needed to stay healthy, and they would fight. Since she loved reading, she just read about giving shots and practiced the shots on an orange. That helped her be able to give the shot to herself.

We think she is a very brave person and a mighty smart one, too. It was really amazing to meet Justice Sotomayor, and we loved the new book, too. We really enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet such an important figure — we will never forget this moment.

We also asked her a question in Spanish, and she liked that we could read and write in Spanish, too. She said her mother told her, "No me importa si trabajan lavando baños. Lo importante es hacerlo bien." Justin told her his mom said the same exact thing. If you have a job, just do it well. In fact everything you do should be done well.

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