Hot Take

Review: Notorious RBG


By: Courtney Simpson

I tend to enjoy reading autobiographies, memoirs, and books about specific real people’s lives. I find the stories to be engaging and funny and I feel like you always learn way more about people than you ever expected to. When you read books about famous people, you start with at least a base knowledge of that person’s existence, whether it be positive or negative. This tends to shape your perception of the book you’re going to read. I remember first being aware of Ruth Bader Ginsburg -(hereafter referred to as RBG or Ruth) during the time when the supreme court ruled that big companies no longer had to pay for birth control for their female employees if the method disagreed with the company's stance on the birth control method. I remember being outraged and horrified at the decision of the supreme court and that RBG was the only vocal justice standing up for women’s rights. Still, this is a book about a woman who became a justice on the supreme court, my expectations for the book was that it would be dry at best.

Notorious RBG starts at the beginning, with stories about Ruth going to school and the impact her mother’s death had on her. It talks about her meeting her husband Marty at college and how he was the only boy not intimidated by her. We learn about the struggle she faced as a woman going to law school and the perceptions that they were taking positions away from men. We learn that Ruth was a new mom and working full time, yet  still made the decision to return to school after Marty told her that she had every reason not to return but that if she wanted it, she would find a way to make it happen. I was amazed at the amount of work and struggle, not just from outside forces like sexism, which were huge, but that her husband was diagnosed with cancer and she not only had her own school work to manage, but she also made helping him with his (as he was in law school too) a priority as well. The fight that she went through to become a supreme court justice was huge.

One of the things that struck me the most about RBG was that she fought for equal rights for women because she knew it was better for everyone if they all had equal rights. She showed in a number of cases that she brought to the supreme court as a lawyer, that sexism in the law was affecting men just as negatively as it affected women. She believes in slow change over a long period of time because it is much more lasting and much less easily overturned. RBG received a lot of heat from feminists over comments she has made regarding the highly controversial case Roe vs Wade. If you listen to her actual thoughts on the case, it’s more complicated than it seems, RBG wanted more than privacy between a woman and her doctor protected, which is where Roe vs Wade stops. RBG also thought the decision was made too quickly, she wanted to approach it from a different angle and make the right to an abortion much more protected. She was worried that the bill would make the burden of paying for the costly procedure fall on poor women and she was right.

I’ve never been more happily wrong about a book than I was about this one. This book was engaging, funny, inspiring and more; I was moved to tears a couple times. This book is about a woman who has been fighting for the rights of everyone for an incredibly long time and I am entirely grateful that she has been.  RBG is the definition of a feminist, and this book highlights her journey to fight for rights and shows that even though she is 84 years old, she still has plenty of fight left. I’m glad that she is in our corner.

I would rate this book five out of five stars.   


Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik