Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik’s book Notorious R.B.G. chronicles the life and times of secret badass and unexpected internet phenomenon; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Kristine is a modern day jack-of-all-trades and a friend of the site. So when the book ‘Notorious R.B.G.’ came across our desks, we thought there would be no one better than her to take a look. Here are her thoughts.
I have here a print book that sprung from a digital tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a title drawing a comparison between the diminutive SCOTUS Justice to the rap giant Biggie Smalls titled Notorious R.B.G.
I came to learn that’s not where the surprises ended. Admittedly I was simply expecting a print version of the most re-blogged posts from the Tumblr – as many popular blogs/internet stars seem to do so they can sell books at Urban Outfitters – but instead found a meticulously researched and in-depth REAL BOOK! Journalist Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (creator of the Tumblr that the book was inspired by) really made good use of the opportunity that internet fame has afforded them. They created an intellectually engaging as well as truly fun look at the life of one of the greatest secret badasses living today; Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Or RBG for short.
Carmon and Knizhnik tell her story through narrative reporting with funny/personal anecdotes and quotes woven throughout, told by people close to RBG personally and professionally. The best parts are RBG’s own words and memories. Annotated excerpts from briefs and dissents in key cases are included, which is genuinely helpful for law noobs like myself, whose eyes glaze over when faced with legal language. The annotations make the material much more accessible for everyone to understand RBG’s groundbreaking work. The book is delightfully comprehensive, covering from her before-its-time marriage to early and frequent encounters with openly sexist/misogynistic individuals and systems in her profession to a peek at her workout plan with her personal trainer. The book is fun for your brain and also your eyeballs as it includes photos and documents such as an encouraging note from Gloria Steinem and a photo of RBG and Antonin Scalia riding an elephant together, as well as memes RBG has inspired, Halloween tributes, and political cartoons. The book is engaging whether you speak lolcat or litigator.
As a member of the hashtag generation and as a woman who doesn’t suffer fools gladly, it’s still shamefully easy for me to forget that only a few generations ago it was much MUCH harder for a woman to do the same. The look at RBG’s law school experience and early career is a solemn reminder that women like RBG had to work twice as hard to be taken seriously despite having the skills, talent, intellect, and work ethic of her male peers.
Her badassery only increased with time. Between her fiery dissents from the Supreme Court bench to her refusal to miss a workout session even with a cracked rib (fact: RBG can do 20 more pushups than I can), I would say the 80-year-old justice has unlocked Achievement Level: BAMF. If you don’t know, now ya know.
And the dissents! I have not read one legal brief in my life and I was reading the excerpts like, “Ooh she BURNED yall motherfuckers!” I found myself carrying this (larger than expected) book around on public transportation and being seized by quick involuntary fist pumps while reading on the bus or blurting out, “YAS GIRL YAAAS!” on lunch break.
The Tumblr revealed RBG to be an unlikely cultural icon. She is a woman who continues to surprise those that underestimate her based on her sex, size, or age – from the days of her youth to the present day. In these current times in which women’s rights and autonomy are still under attack, and with the threat of what she and many others have worked for being rolled back, her sudden internet popularity shows that her work is widely appreciated and valued, and she is a voice and a presence that is relevant, necessary, and admired across generations.
The book takes us closer. There is that larger-than-life legal legacy but the book delves into the fighter, the wife, the mother, and the mentor that she also is. The book appeals to older and younger generations, is comprehensive, sparks curiosity, links the personal to the political, and inspires action. It also includes a special pork loin recipe. But most of all it reminds us of our history and on whose shoulders we stand.
And that the work is not yet done.
(Photo Credits: Notorious RGB Tumblr, Amazon)