Cover Image: Being Brown

Being Brown

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is not so much a biography of Sotomayor as a symbol of what Latinx people can achieve. It’s short. A lot is left out but there is much to think about.
Was this review helpful?
A very short volume looking not so much at Sonia Sotomayor the person, but rather Justice Sotomayor the symbol.  The book lays out the argument that Justice Sotomayor is a major current symbol for the power of the American dream and the idea that hard work is rewarded.  The problem with the smybol arises when it is used as a club to batter Latinos who have been excluded (through legal and social means) from accessing in large numbers the things (like good public education) that make the American Dream possible.  And if "anyone" can achieve "anything" through hard work, then *not* achieving *must* be due to not working hard enough (rather than social, legal, or other structural issues).  In that way, the symbol of Justice Sotomayor can actually backfire against the larger success and integration of Latinos and Latinas into conventional American success.  Th evolume also cover's Sotomayor's jurisprudence on the Supreme Court bench and a history of US colonialism and resistance in Puerto Rico.

With such a short book and so many things covered, there's naturally not a huge amount of depth on any subject, but in several places I learned things I'd never known before: 

     *US companies didn't have to pay taxes in Puerto Rico, making the island more impoverished; 
     *many of the first many drafted and killed in WWI and WWII came from Puerto Rico; 
     *Supreme Court decisions said that despite the fact the Puerto Ricans became citizens in 1917, constitutional protections (like FREAKING TRIAL BY JURY!) did not necessarily extend to them because Puerto Rico was a territory
     *It was illegal to *protest* US rule of Puerto Rico

All of which to me are ridiculous and have sparked an interest in me to learn more about Puerto Rico's history. 

In terms of the larger social justice claims, the book's length works against it, as it assumes a lot of it's premises and doesn't have the space to develop it's arguments.  In that sense, I doubt it will convince anyone who starts off with a more conservative outlook on issues of race, ethnicity, and class.

On the whole, this was a really interesting book that reinforces just how important it is to understand how symbols get manipulated in national discourse as well as knowing the historical and social forces that have helped shape current realities.
Was this review helpful?