Law in Popular Culture

Justice Sotomayor plants seeds of change in new children’s book

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Sonia Sotomayor

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor got the idea for her new children’s book, Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You more than 30 years ago.

She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 7 and was giving herself an insulin shot in the bathroom of a New York restaurant when another diner walked in. As she was leaving the restaurant, she heard that diner tell her companion, “she’s a drug addict.”

“I stopped and I was embarrassed, and I turned around and I walked back to the woman and said, ‘I’m not a drug addict, I’m a diabetic. And you saw me taking insulin, which is a drug that saves my life,’ ” Sotomayor told ABC NewsGood Morning America on Tuesday. The Associated Press and NPR also have coverage.

Sotomayor, who was in her 30s at the time, also told the woman that she shouldn’t assume the worst in people. “If you don’t know something, ask,” she said.

Just Ask! is intended for children ages 4 to 8 and tells the story of 12 young people working together to create a garden with different flowers and plants, which Sotomayor told NPR is a metaphor for the children’s differences.

A young Sotomayor is a character in the book and talks about her diabetes. Other characters discuss their experiences with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, blindness and Down syndrome.

“Differences provide not just beauty in life, but they’re important to the quality of the world we live in,” Sotomayor told the Associated Press. “It’s richer because of our differences. We’re not lesser because of it. We’re stronger because of it.”

Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s first Latina justice, was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009. She told the Associated Press that she wants to continue to write for children and has ideas for future books related to civics.

“I truly believe that if I can inspire the younger generation to see themselves as positive agents for change … that I will leave a more lasting legacy than what I can do as a judge,” she said.

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