Biography of a Badass.
The authors Carmon and Knizhnik have done an impressive job of bringing the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg into pop culture while highlighting serious scholarship and the fierceness of the Supreme Court Justice. Before reading Notorious RBG, I considered her a remarkable woman. While I was reading I responded personally more than once, pausing because her steadfast and resolute campaign for equality took my breath away. I have become a rabid fan of her work.
The book touches upon many aspects of her life: her early years, her academic appointments, her arguments before the court. She is one of the most important Civil Rights leaders of today. You will want everyone you know to read about this cultural icon.
Her early years were often spent in the library with books [You know I couldn’t possibly leave out that detail]:
“For a while, her favorites were books about Greek and Norse mythology, and then she graduated to Nancy Drew. “This was a girl who was an adventurer, who could think for herself, who was the dominant person in her relationship with her young boyfriend,” RBG remembered happily.”
Her early career:
“The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.”
“1963: RBG becomes the second woman to teach full-time at Rutgers School of Law. “[The dean explained] it was only fair to pay me modestly, because my husband had a very good job.”
“She said, ‘I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”
The story of her marriage reveals what a true partnership looks like, decades before the idea of men sharing equal responsibilities in raising children reached popular culture.
RBG’s physical resilience is yet another area where I was floored. She has survived cancer twice, and can do more pushups in her nineties than I can.
She does it all with the clarity of her life’s work.
“The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity,” she said simply. “It is a decision she must make for herself. When government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”
“She likes to quote the opening words of the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union.” Beautiful, yes, but as she always points out, “we the people” originally left out a lot of people. “It would not include me,” RBG said, or enslaved people, or Native Americans. Over the course of the centuries, people left out of the Constitution fought to have their humanity recognized by it. RBG sees that struggle as her life’s work.”
No wonder she’s inspired a cult of admirers.
Read it: Carmon, Irin, and Shana Knizhnik. 2015. Notorious RBG: the life and times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.