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Best of the National Book Festival: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, 2018

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Welcome to our ongoing celebration of the Library of Congress National Book Festival. Each weekday, we will feature a video presentation from among the thousands of authors who have appeared at the National Book Festival and as part of our new year-long series, National Book Festival Presents. Mondays will feature topical nonfiction; Tuesday: poetry or literary fiction; Wednesday: history, biography, memoir; Thursday: popular fiction; and Friday: authors who write for children and teens. Please enjoy, and make sure to explore our full National Book Festival video collection!

The following post was written by Sasha Dowdy and Monica Valentine, program specialists in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

This event from the National Book Festival is especially for children and teens, and this blog post includes prompts for writing and thinking that young readers, families and teachers can use to explore the author and the author’s work. Recommended for ages 7-14.

Today, this series features U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor discussing her books for young readers, “Turning Pages: My Life Story” and “The Beloved World of Sonia Sotomayor.” She was interviewed by Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the 2018 Library of Congress National Book Festival in D.C.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s presentation starts at 00:26, and timestamps for major topics are below:

  • Motivation for writing for young people (3:47)
  • “I am here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books” (6:58)
  • Books give you a chance to travel with the power of your imagination (10:33)
  • Laws exist to help us live better together (13:04)
  • Read-aloud from the book: being diagnosed with diabetes (17:32)
  • Importance of diverse representation in books (23:03)
  • Q&A from audience (26:55)

Writing and Thinking Prompts

  • Have you read “Turning Pages” or any other works by Justice Sotomayor? What does it mean to be a Supreme Court Justice? How has this talk changed the way you think about the Justice and her journey to where she is now?
  • What surprised you about the talk? What does it make you wonder about?
  • If you had been at the talk, what would you have asked Justice Sotomayor?

5:47: Illustrator Lulu Delacre included symbols of Justice Sotomayor’s life on the cover of “Turning Pages,” including a key and a coqui – a type of frog that only lives in Puerto Rico – to symbolize her ancestral homeland.

  • What symbols would represent your life and where you’re from? Draw a cover for the book of your life that includes some of those symbols.

11:30: “That wish to… meet other people in the world came from reading about where other people lived and wanting to see it.”

  • What is your favorite book setting—a place you’ve visited by reading a book? Is it real or a fantasy world, or a mix? Imagine what it would be like using the five senses: see, smell, touch, hear, taste. Make a list of things you would do if you got to go there. Draw a picture or write about yourself doing the first thing on the list.

43:38: “Every book brings you a different insight … a different way of looking at things.”

  • Think about the last book you read. Did it help you see the world differently? Did you learn a new fact or realize something about other people? Write down what you thought about the subject before you read the book, then write down what you thought about it after you read the book. Then, try to find the small thing in the book that changed your perspective.

Explore More

  • The Library holds various resources about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, such as a courtroom sketch, “Sonia Sotomayor Saves Baseball,” and a video of her explaining the Magna Carta, an important document that helped shape the laws of this country.
  • Use the Library’s online exhibitions to expand on these quotes from the talk:
    • “We can’t let things happen to us… I believe in civic participation” (47:33). Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon, is most famous for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Discover the story of her full life in activism in her own words in this online exhibit.
    • “What laws help people do is live together (13:40)…but law can’t get it right all the time. Some very good laws are passed, but as society changes, they need to be amended or altered. … Some things are not constitutional, like segregation, and we have to change that” (16:26). Follow the journey to the ratification of the 19th Amendment as women fought for the right to vote and the legal fight to desegregate schools using online exhibitions from the Library.
  • In her answer to a question “How can I teach my son feminism?” the Justice replied: “Feminism, rightly defined, is respect for women (34:38). … It requires teaching him, by example or otherwise, that women do powerful things.” See for yourself the Library’s many examples of powerful women, such as Amelia Earhart, Mary Church Terrell, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony and the suffragist Milagros Benet de Newton.