I Am Ruth Bad­er Ginsburg

  • Review
By – March 25, 2024

Writ­ing in the per­spec­tive of for­mer Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg as she looks back on the arc of her life, Brad Meltzer makes a remark­ably strong case that Gins­burg was a trail­blaz­er for equal­i­ty, some­one who thought about how she want­ed the world to be for her chil­dren and her­self. Begin­ning in the 1930s, Gins­burg assert­ed her dis­com­fort about the lim­it­ed expec­ta­tions for girls. She fig­ured out that pur­su­ing a legal career was her best chance to change unfair prac­tices for all. Her par­ents’ val­ues, com­bined with their belief in edu­ca­tion and libraries, helped make that pos­si­ble for her — at a time when nei­ther women nor Jews were wel­come in the field of law.

Humor and vignettes in a comics style give young read­ers a show, don’t tell” con­nec­tion to Ruth as a human being. Christo­pher Eliopou­los depicts a short, expres­sive Ruth in her black judge’s gown and her icon­ic large glass­es and jabots. He shows her play­ing on her Brook­lyn street, bring­ing ice cream to a Jew­ish orphan­age with her moth­er on her birth­day, and rais­ing chil­dren of her own. In one scene, she stands on three books on a chair to reach the kitchen table, which holds her law school books, while ghost­ly fig­ures of her run around car­ing for her hus­band, who has cancer.

Meltzer describes Ruth’s deter­mi­na­tion and suc­cess­es, as well as her loss­es, her approach to solv­ing prob­lems, and her belief that well-rea­soned dis­sent­ing opin­ions can give oth­ers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to change rules in the future. Meltzer’s research is thor­ough and clear, but the sub­jects he cov­ers, includ­ing overt ref­er­ences to anti­semitism, may be more appro­pri­ate for read­ers ages sev­en and up, rather than five, as the pub­lish­er rec­om­mends. A time­line of key events in Ruth’s life appears at the very end.

This inno­v­a­tive biog­ra­phy about a woman ded­i­cat­ed to seek­ing jus­tice and right­ing the wrongs she saw around her is bound to rouse a new gen­er­a­tion to want to do the same.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er and a school librar­i­an for forty years in NYC, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

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