On the Road Ms. Lara Oliver Goes to Washington

By Lara Oliver, District Sales Manager

What do you do when you receive an email confirming your appointment for coffee with a sitting U.S. Supreme Court justice in her chambers? You squeal. Or at least that’s what I did.

My colleague, Edward Benitez, director of U.S. Spanish language sales for Random House, spent a week touring Puerto Rico with Justice Sotomayor earlier this year for the release of her memoir, MY BELOVED WORLD. Edward and I had made plans to visit libraries in the D.C. area and there was hopeful talk of the possibility of meeting Justice Sotomayor – but what were the odds, really? I knew Edward and the justice had become fast friends over the course of that week but being a Supreme Court justice does seem like the kind of gig that would keep one’s schedule pretty full.

And yet, before I knew it, Edward and I were walking past a series of framed photo collages from her visits with smiling school children, adoring adult fans and a shot of her opening pitch at a Yankees game. Where one could easily envision prized works of art or photographs of the justice shaking hands with heads of state, Sonia Sotomayor has decorated her work space with reminders of what her life story means to the thousands of people she has inspired to pursue their own dreams.

If you’ve reMy Beloved Worldad or listened to MY BELOVED WORLD, you know hers is a true American dream story: she grew up poor in the projects in the South Bronx, she was diagnosed with type I diabetes at seven, her father died from complications due to alcoholism when she was nine – and yet – fortified by her hard-working mother’s passion for education and the emotional support of her abuelita (grandmother) – Sotomayor was ultimately accepted to and graduated from Princeton and later Yale Law School, launching her from humble beginnings to assistant district attorney, to law firm partner, to a seat on a Federal court, then the U.S. Court of Appeals and now the Supreme Court.

Readers and listeners of the book will not be at all surprised to know that she is very much in-person the same Sonia Sotomayor she has written about: warm and welcoming with a sincere interest in and concern for people. In meeting her it is easy to forget that she is the same lady who hopped on the back of a motorcycle donning a bullet-proof vest to seize a truck full of counterfeit purses. (When the truck hit a dead-end and came barreling toward her she told the motorcycle driver not to move and they watched as the truck hopped the curb, nearly toppling over to get around them!) Clearly, alongside her warm exterior is a stern commitment to justice.

Out of respect – and maybe a little fear! – I resisted the urge to ask her to sign my copy of her book. But, as our visit ended, she graciously offered not only to sign my book but also to get a photo. I asked Edward, who will heretofore be referred to as My New Best Friend, if he thought it would be okay to post the photo on Facebook and he quickly replied, “I’m pretty sure that’s what Facebook is for!” Indeed it is! I do hope all of the friends who shared my excitement by liking that photo will also read or listen to MY BELOVED WORLD and share in the excitement of reading Sonia Sotomayor’s life story and the pride of living in a country where someone from the humblest beginnings can overcome the social and economic barriers many of us share to live out her version of the American dream. Sotomayor_cropped

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