Book Review: Notorious RBG

Notorious RBGby Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik

Published by Dey Street Books, October 2015

I am an admirer of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but after reading this book my position is different. I am now a fan. In fact, I now call her RBG. I haven’t put her face or initials as a tattoo on my body as others have nor set her words to music. But my head, my heart, my soul all swell in love and appreciation for this woman’s work. I think that’s a far example of a fan.

It seems like I’ve always been aware of RBG. I recall reading about her work back in the 70s and 80s. I knew of her work on behalf of women when Bill Clinton nominated her to the Supreme Court in the 90s. This book, Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, reminded me of those accomplishments and in addition filled in all the other things I’d missed. The authors highlighted the important milestones of the women’s rights movement and RBG’s career with both legal, historical and family stories.

RBG 1This is not a text-only book. It’s also picture-rich. Right at the beginning (Chapter 2) we see a nine-page timeline (see above) filled with pictures and drawings and cartoons tracing events in RBG’s life and in the women’s and civil rights movements. (RBG saw both those movements as one. She said that prejudice against how a person looks includes both gender and skin color.) I first listened to this book on audio, but quickly realized I needed the paper version as well. The hardback has a lot of stuff the audio doesn’t have.

This book shows the hard, serious and important work RBG has devoted her life to, but it also shows the lighter side of the justice. She had a wonderful relationship with her husband (he’s now deceased), loves opera, is terrible at cooking, has a great sense of humor, and has an extesive group of friends. Most of all, I really enjoyed the legal discussions, especially the cases RBG has been involved in, whether for or against. She’s very honest about what and why she is against something. Rather persuasive too.

The entire book is excellent and I highly recommend you read it. And, I mean the whole book. There is a super-fun Appendix that you shouldn’t miss. You’ll find a recipe from RBG’s husband Marty for Pork Loin Braised In Milk. There are poems. “Scalia/Ginsburg: A (Gentle) Parody of Operatic Proportions” is especially fun, as both justices were huge opera fans and friends despite their differences. I particularly loved RBG’s list of personality attributes and I’d like to leave you with the highlights of that list found in the Appendix. These are the traits most admired by fans of the justice. It’s short but very telling.

How To Be Like RBG.

  • Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles.
  • Don’t burn your bridges.
  • Don’t be afraid to take charge.
  • Think about what you want, then do the work.
  • But then enjoy what makes you happy.
  • Bring along your crew.
  • Have a sense of humor.
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2 Responses to Book Review: Notorious RBG

  1. Excellent review, Margot! I loved this book, too.

  2. Ti says:

    When I first saw this in my reader, I read it as BFG, the children’s book. Ha!

    I don’t know much about RBG. Would it make a good book club selection?

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