books, Reading, Women Writers

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

“‘Sex, like race, is a visible, immutable characteristic bearing no necessary relationship to ability.'”


Shana Knizhnik created an homage Tumblr account to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that became an international phenomenon. Thus was born “Notorious RBG” and the premise for this new book about this extraordinary woman and her impact on American culture and law.

Since the early 1970s Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been paving the way for women in this country through civil liberties fights and groundbreaking cases. In her first brief to the Supreme Court in Reed v. Reed, RBG set the stage with words that, despite momentous progress, still resonate in America today.

“The distance to equal opportunity for women in the United States remains considerable in face of the pervasive social, cultural and legal roots of sex-based discrimination. As other groups that have been assisted toward full equality before the law via the ‘suspect classification’ doctrine, women are sparsely represented in legislative and policy-making chambers and lack political power to remedy the discriminatory treatment they are accorded in the law and in society generally. Absent firm constitutional foundation for equal treatment of men and women by the law, women seeking to be judged on their individual merits will continue to encounter law-sanctioned obstacles.” 

Shana Knizhnik has curated delightful pop culture images – from tribute t-shirts to iconic political cartoons – which bring levity and life to “Notorious RBG”, while Irin Carmon provides anecdotes and excerpts that shed light on RBGs life’s work. The overall balance of irreverence with admiration throughout the book is delightful and certainly my cup of tea. However, while I enjoyed the tone and loved the content, I did feel that the writing was a little flat and perfunctory. The book shone for enabling the reader to get to know RBG, but the portions worth excerpting were those written by RBG herself.

As an advocate, a trial lawyer, a law school professor, and a Supreme Court Justice, RBG has had an unmatched hand in advancing the cause of equality for women and is looked to as an idol and model by many. RBG once said, “The pedestal upon which women have been placed has all too often, upon closer inspection, been revealed as a cage.” Let us hope that the pedestal upon which many of us have placed her is far from constricting.






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