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BNH Book Review: My Own Words

Published Friday Oct 23, 2020

Author Terri Schlichenmeyer of The Bookworm Sez

“My Own Words”
by Ruth Bader Ginsburg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams
2016/Simon & Schuster
$30/374 pages

The life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, known as the Notorious RBG, has inspired a movie, a documentary and passion within her millions of fans. Her death and the fight over her replacement on the court has sparked a fierce national debate. It may also inspire some to want to get to know this icon better and turn to the 2016 book, “My Own Words,” which she coauthored with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams.

In mid-2003, Williams and Hartnett approached Bader Ginsburg and pointed out that it was time for her to tell her story, before someone else did.

In her preface, Ginsburg says that “My Own Words” was meant to be written after a planned biography but her co-authors “thought it best” to wait on the biography until her “Court years neared completion.”  They “flipped the projected publication order.”

You might wish they hadn’t.

You’ll hang onto every word of Ginsburg’s life story. It’s everything you’d expect from her, and it surely won’t disappoint readers. What will, though, is that “My Own Words” aren’t always her own words. Yes, you’ll read transcripts of speeches by Ginsburg, legal briefs, bench announcements, introductions and wisdom inside law review articles. Yes, you’ll see her fierce strength. But a good amount of this book consists of essays, speeches and articles written by others about Ginsburg, including her co-authors.

There are insights into RBG’s life. Even as a child, young Bader chafed at inequality and “hypocritical rules.” This is not a bad book. It’s just not what you might expect, so be warned.

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