Did you catch John Stewart interviewing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the Daily Show? Hear her interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition? Latino USA? Her memoir was published a few weeks ago, and I think the only day she’s had away from the book tour since then was Monday, January 21: that’s the morning she swore Vice President Biden in for his second term.
The reviews I’ve read of My Beloved World mention young Sonia growing up in a tiny Bronx apartment with her Puerto Rico-born parents, her father’s early death, her mother’s hard work, her beloved grandmother, and her appreciation for affirmative action. One reason she gave for writing the memoir was that so many people identify with different pieces of her story. She thought perhaps writing about her path to the Supreme Court might give them hope.
But, alas, very little of her story that I identify with most was mentioned during her book tour. You may not know this, but Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was eight. I was diagnosed with Type 1 at age seven. With all the press coverage she’s had the past couple of weeks, the only thing I found that dealt with ways Sotomayor’s early diabetes diagnosis may have influenced some of her life decisions was in an article in the Charlotte Observer. The paper revealed that the chronic disease nearly killed her, and that one of the reasons Sotomayor never had children was that she was afraid she wouldn’t be around to raise them. I know what she means. Here’s an excerpt about my high school years From my own memoir, Long Time, No See:
In 1972, at the beginning of freshman year, I was admitted to the hospital twice, both times via the emergency room, both times close to coma. In the first episode, I could still talk when we arrived there, but the second time, Flo found me in a heap on the basement floor and dragged me, a hundred pounds of dead weight, up the stairs and out the back door and into the car. During that second hospitalization, my doctor, exercising his version of bedside manner, declared that I wouldn’t live past age thirty.
I was 14 years old when that happened, and my doctor then couldn’t have known about the diabetic advances around the corner. Fast-acting insulin, diabetic educators and home blood monitoring methods came along too late to save my eyesight, but those advances, along with my husband Mike’s willingness to learn about the disease and motivate me to stay well, have kept me happy and healthy far longer than my Nostradamus pediatrician and I could have expected.
The Charlotte Observer article reported that monitoring her health has become second nature to Sotomayor now, and that she gives herself insulin injections five or six times a day. Me, too! Justice Sotomayor told the reporter that she no longer worries she will die young. “When I reached 50, I was able to let go of that demon,” she said. “But not without recognizing its benefits. It drove me in a way that perhaps nothing else might have to accomplish as much as I could as early as possible.” I know what she means. Justice Sotomayor’s memoir ends when she is named to the Supreme Court; mine ends when we move to Chicago. And hey, with more advances in diabetes around the corner, watch out, world. Sonia and I are just getting started.