EDLP: Were you nervous on your first day of the job?
SS: Nervous can’t even describe what I was. Jumping out of my skin may be a better description. In my book, I talk about the experience of giving a Bible reading in church and how I felt walking up the stairs to the top of the pulpit. I probably have felt that same way in every new situation. And certainly, walking out into my first case. My body didn’t appear as if it was shaking but I was trembling inside.
EDLP: Of your colleagues on the Court, who is a kindred spirit?
SS: We are each so vastly different and I share with each of them pieces of kindred spirit.
I will say that the colleague who made a lasting impression in a very short time was Justice John Paul Stevens. [Sotomayor called him to compliment him on an opinion he had written.] I said, ‘John this is absolutely brilliant, I don’t know that I could produce something like this.’ He said ‘Sonia, no one is born a Justice…You will write your own opinions that will be just as strong.’
In my epilogue, that is message I leave, that I am growing into becoming a justice.
EDLP: If your father were here today, what would he say about all of your success?
SS: That was one of the wonderful journeys, one of the wonderful paths of this book was learning about a father I had not known. He was a dreamer. I think he would have said he was happy to see my dreams come true.
I think we also might have gotten to the point of being able to say that we loved each other. It was a different time. It wasn’t a generation where your parents said I love you. I like that part of today’s generation a lot better.
EDLP: In a lot of the coverage of you and other Puerto Ricans from the Bronx, there is little complexity offered of the borough, of how people go to church, work and do what they have to do.
SS: This book was written to give that picture… The book is woven around many purposes and one was to let not just the nation but also the world understand the important slice of life that we are—to understand the complexities of our life and its richness as well.
People think of “ghetto communities,” poor communities, they think of all the negatives and they forget the word community. People live in those communities and they have lives that are meaningful. And that could be lost in the public dialogue.
EDLP: You describe yourself as fiercely independent. Yet, when you got married you tacked on “de Noonan” to your name?
SS: You have to remember the times. We are talking about the women’s rights movement just beginning to come into its own. Keeping your own [last] name started in the larger society. At age 21, 22, I was still from a traditional family.
EDLP: You have a reference in your memoirs to poker. How good are you at playing?
SS: Pretty good
EDLP: Are you being modest?
SS: A little bit. I am pretty good. I’m not a professional player but I do win regularly among my friends. I don’t think they let me win.
EDLP: Do you have any regrets?
SS: With all of public speaking I am doing in Spanish, I wince that I had not received a more formal education [in the language]. And it’s actually one of my life projects…I’ve been thinking about getting tutoring to improve my Spanish.
We all have to take seriously our obligation to become fully bilingual. And so for those of us who are weak in Spanish, we have to take the time to take care of that. And for those of us who are weak in English, we have to take the time to take care of it. If we are going to master both of our worlds, we have to master both of our languages.
EDLP: You mention El Diario/La Prensa in your memoirs, that your parents would read the paper.
SS: El Diario/La Prensa has been a part of my life since the day I was born. It is my expectation that it will last 100 plus more years so that it continues to be a part of my life and that of everyone I love.