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Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hardcover – October 27, 2015
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“The authors make this unassuming, most studious woman come pulsing to life....’Notorious RBG’ may be a playful project, but it asks to be read seriously...That I responded so personally to it is a testimony to [its] storytelling and panache.” (Jennifer Senior, New York Times)
Carmon and Knizhnik write powerfully about the progression of Ginsburg’s legal career. In particular, they make vivid the development of her trademark arguments ... In her fierce honesty, resolute realness, and, yes, innate sense of style (those collars!), Ginsburg emerges as a cultural icon worthy of her own fanbase (Kate Tuttle, The Boston Globe)
“What a wonderful book: The annotated dissents! The knockout photos! Why she likes to write through the night! The litany of big cases she won as a lawyer, and how she picked them! How she made Bill Clinton cry! Notorious RBG is a laugh-out-loud joy to read.” (Rachel Maddow)
“A deeply original mashup of pop culture and serious scholarship. I plan to give a copy to both of my daughters.” (Gilbert King, Pulitzer Prize winning author of Devil in the Grove)
“This breezy, fun and thoughtful take on the life of the Justice explains exactly why a new generation created and embraced the Cult of Ginsburg.” (Jeffrey Toobin, author of The Oath and The Nine)
“This rigorously reported book shines a new light on the groundbreaking cases Ginsburg litigated challenging gender stereotypes.” (Louise Melling, Deputy Legal Director, ACLU)
“If you admired RBG before, Carmon and Knizhnik will make you fall in love with her, not only as a feminist hero but a human being.” (Vogue)
“Clark Kent had Superman. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has Notorious R.B.G…. Carmon and Knizhnik have turned R.B.G’s robe into a cape.” (New York Times Book Review)
From the Back Cover
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
“The authors make this unassuming, most studious woman come pulsing to life. . . . Notorious RBG may be a playful project, but it asks to be read seriously. . . . That I responded so personally to it is a testimony to [its] storytelling and panache.”— Jennifer Senior, New York Times
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she has only tried to make the world a little better and a little freer.
But nearly a half-century into her career, something funny happened to the octogenarian: she won the internet. Across America, people who weren’t even born when Ginsburg first made her name as a feminist pioneer are tattooing themselves with her face, setting her famously searing dissents to music, and making viral videos in tribute.
Notorious RBG, inspired by the Tumblr that amused the Justice herself and brought to you by its founder and an award-winning feminist journalist, is more than just a love letter. It draws on intimate access to Ginsburg's family members, close friends, colleagues, and clerks, as well an interview with the Justice herself. An original hybrid of reported narrative, annotated dissents, rare archival photos and documents, and illustrations, the book tells a never-before-told story of an unusual and transformative woman who transcends generational divides. As the country struggles with the unfinished business of gender equality and civil rights, Ginsburg stands as a testament to how far we can come with a little chutzpah.
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I was touched by many things in this book, not only the courage of Justice Ginsburg's opinions, or the loving handwritten note from her dying husband, but even by the photos illustrating her close friendship with Justice Scalia, one of her ideological opposites - it's rare to see such a mensh in these times. The format is terrifically creative for this sort of subject: the NY Times reviewer aptly described it as being "as if a scrapbook and the Talmud decided to have a baby." The latter comes in especially for the way the book's margins are used for commenting on everything -- not just for the obvious connections to a Justice who is Jewish. (Apropos of that, though, one thing did puzzle me: the recipe for pork in milk at the back. Breaking two of the Jewish religion's food taboos at once -- isn't that a little gangsta? Was that the idea, or is the whole thing a joke? And actually, one other thing: the publisher's subject classification on the back cover is "Fiction." Aside from the recipe, I hope not.)
I now live in Japan and teach comparative constitutional law there. Pretty much no one, including most law professors, can name the justices of the Japan Supreme Court, who are chosen for their anonymity, their conformity to a certain social background, and their timidity of thought. And throughout its nearly 70-year existence, the JSC has always upheld laws and regulations that limit civil rights. One reason I got this book was to be able to show my students how completely different the relationship between a country's Supreme Court and its citizens can be. In most countries of the world, a book like this would be inconceivable. While I'm not saying that many other Justices deserve such a tribute, this book should be a great reminder for Americans how lucky you are not only to have Justice Ginsburg, but also to be capable of such affectionate engagement with your government.
The inclusion of Ginsburg's legal opinions is a really nice touch that helps cement the narratives surrounding her famous cases. However, my favorite parts were the more personal, tender glimpses at what made up RBG. Her wisecracking husband Marty, her shared-love of opera with Scalia, her workout routine, her relationship with her children, the anecdote about asking for tickets for the play Cock. I would have loved even a little more of this background color; what sort of person takes on systematic sexism and racism for decades?
On the negative side, the shtick of the book didn't work for me. Some of the side remarks were a little too eye-rolling for me, like unironically saying "Burn." It veers sometimes too closely to the sort of hero worship that I think Ginsburg would be hesitant to encourage; the authors don't seem sure whether they want to deconstruct the pop culture icon or embrace whole-hog Ginsburg's 'notoriety.'
RBG is a tremendous figure and the sort of human being we should all aspire to be. As silly as some of the memes around her are, it is a credit to her steady, solid lifetime of work that she has earned her permanent place in the American consciousness. Even if the book I think isn't quite as laser-focused as its subject, it's a well-told story of someone doing what's right in a time of divisiveness and backwards thinking.
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little but an introduction to Justice Ginsburg's life and work.Read more