Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg 
by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik
Copyright 2015
Dey Street - Biography
227 pp., incl. Notes, Index, and Image Credits

I have long admired Ruth Bader Ginsburg without actually knowing all that much about her, beyond the fact that she's a Supreme Court justice who champions women's rights. In fact, she has worked for rights of both men and women, arguing (with her husband, as described on p. 52) that "the government couldn't discriminate between men and women 'when biological differences are not related to the activities in question.' " When reading about the slow progress that has been made against discrimination on both sides (and how it has been handled in other countries), it's all the more surprising that pay discrimination still exists.

But, let's back up a bit. Notorious RBG begins by describing Ruth Bader (then known as "Kiki") as a brilliant but quiet high school girl and goes on to follow her through her school years, marriage, motherhood, law school, various court jobs and cases, all the way through to the present. As you read about RBG, you get to know how and why she became the person she is today, how she was discriminated against by some and championed by others. Most importantly, you find out what a striking difference a flexible, supportive spouse can make to the career trajectory of an intelligent and driven woman.

A fabulous book for feminists, those interested in the law, or anyone who is simply curious about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the book describes her victories and losses, joys and challenges. But, of greatest interest should be the way certain rights have been chipped away, in recent years, thanks to an ultra-conservative Supreme Court majority. There is some important information that everyone should be aware of in Notorious RBG. I learned, for example, that the legalization of abortion was an issue of privacy as dictated by the Constitution -- that nobody has a right to interfere with a woman's private medical choices -- and that discrimination against pregnant women is still allowed because the majority of justices (in the most recent ruling) think of pregnancy as a choice. This, in spite of the fact that one can't discriminate against someone who plays for a company baseball team and breaks an arm, although playing on the team is clearly a "choice" but pregnancy is not always deliberate. Fascinating. There is still clearly much work to be done.

Highly recommended - I was fascinated with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and admired her, before. Notorious RBG made me love her even more and hope that she stays in the Supreme Court for as long as humanly possible. I also am now a huge admirer of her husband, Marty, who spent every bit as much time building up his wife and her career as he did his own, often letting her career take priority. When you read about Marty, you understand just how far a woman can go if she has a partner who believes in her.

©2015 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery  or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email bookfoolery@gmail.com for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Totally gonna read this thanks to your recommendation.

  2. Yes I want to read this book!

    1. You must, Susan. She is a fascinating woman and I thought the book was excellent.


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