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Breaking In

The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice

Joan Biskupic

Sarah Crichton Books

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ISBN10: 0374535663
ISBN13: 9780374535667

Trade Paperback

288 Pages



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"I knew she'd be trouble."

So quipped Antonin Scalia about Sonia Sotomayor at the Supreme Court's annual end-of-term party in 2010. It's usually the sort of event one would expect from such a grand institution, with gentle parodies of the justices performed by their law clerks, but this year Sotomayor decided to shake it up—flooding the room with salsa music and coaxing her fellow justices to dance.

It was little surprise in 2009 that President Barack Obama nominated a Hispanic judge to replace the retiring justice David Souter. The fact that there had never been a nominee to the nation's highest court from the nation's fastest growing minority had long been apparent. So the time was ripe—but how did it come to be Sonia Sotomayor?

In Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice, the veteran journalist Joan Biskupic answers that question. This is the story of how two forces providentially merged—the large ambitions of a talented Puerto Rican girl raised in the projects in the Bronx and the increasing political presence of Hispanics, from California to Texas, from Florida to the Northeast—resulting in a historical appointment. And this is not just a tale about breaking barriers as a Puerto Rican. It's about breaking barriers as a justice.

Biskupic, the author of highly praised judicial biographies of Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, now pulls back the curtain on the Supreme Court nomination process, revealing the networks Sotomayor built and the skills she cultivated to go where no Hispanic has gone before. We see other potential candidates edged out along the way. And we see how, in challenging tradition and expanding our idea of a justice (as well as expanding her public persona), Sotomayor has created tension within and without the court's marble halls.

As a Supreme Court justice, Sotomayor has shared her personal story to an unprecedented degree. And that story—of a Latina who emerged from tough times in the projects not only to prevail but also to rise to the top—has even become fabric for some of her most passionate comments on matters before the Court. But there is yet more to know about the rise of Sonia Sotomayor. Breaking In offers the larger, untold story of the woman who has been called "the people's justice."


Praise for Breaking In

"This is a remarkable book about an extraordinary woman in very challenging times. Sonia Sotomayor's memoir is not complete without Breaking In. Joan Biskupic has done a wonderful and insightful job writing about the most influential Latina ever. She puts together three incredibly complex elements: Sotomayor's life of struggle, the rise of the Latino community, and the intricacies of the Supreme Court. The result is superb. Sotomayor's mission—that a single person can make a difference in the cause of justice—is transforming our country. You have to read it to know us."—Jorge Ramos, anchor, Univision/Fusion

"If you think books about Supreme Court justices are only for lawyers, think again. Joan Biskupic has written a fascinating story, at once shrewd and sympathetic, about overcoming the fear of failure. Biskupic takes you into the head and the heart of the most interesting Supreme Court justice since . . . well there's never been a justice like Sotomayor."—Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World

"Biskupic combines scholarly rigor with a bit of human admiration in this cleareyed account of how someone advances a judicial career in 21st-century America . . . A balanced but also admiring portrait of a Latine, a jurist and a trailblazer."Kirkus Reviews

"A fascinating account of the political machinations involved in achieving a Supreme Court judgeship and of Sotomayor's juridical decisions and actions since her appointment . . . [Biskupic's] skill as a journalist enlivens [her] sources with vivid anecdotal detail"Publishers Weekly

"Biskupic offers a compelling look at a justice who continues to face challenges to her right to sit on the bench."Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt


Life of the Party

This party celebrating the end of the Supreme Court's annual term is an exclusive affair that bears all the trappings of a staid, cultured institution and its privileged occupants. Festivities...

About the author

Joan Biskupic

Joan Biskupic has covered the Supreme Court for more than twenty years and is the author of several books, including American Original: The Life and Constitution of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (Sarah Crichton Books/FSG, 2009) and Sandra Day O'Connor. She is an editor in charge for legal affairs at Reuters News. Before joining Reuters in 2012, she was the Supreme Court correspondent for USA Today and for The Washington Post. A graduate of Georgetown University Law School, she is a regular panelist on PBS's Washington Week and on NPR's Diane Rehm Show. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and daughter.

© Matt Mendelsohn