The book is an RBG reader, culling her essential, important, and oft-personal writing into one contained volume, each piece framed by relevant background information ... the book’s thoughtful organization provides a clear lineation. Many of the essays are also condensed for clarity and context further enhancing the volume’s readability. Adding to the experience are photos of Justice Ginsburg from her early childhood to present day ... For ardent Notorious RBG fan-girls (present company included), the essays will strike as classic Justice Ginsburg reading. For newer devotees, the collection provides an accessible and engaging introduction to a formidable feminist icon.
At the heart of My Own Words is an abiding commitment to civility, to institutional norms, to the infinite possibilities of dialogue and cooperation, and to the now-dubious notion that protecting outsiders and others is a core American value ... The collection is organized in a fashion that makes it hard to locate a strong narrative arc. But to the extent that a clarion voice emerges, it is a devotion to the rule of law as an ordering force ... My Own Words is the furthest thing from sexy. Unless you find a very precise woman sexy — which many of us do. But as a collection of thoughtful writing about perseverance and community and the law, it is a tonic to the current national discourse. When Notorious RBG herself steps out of these norms, it is only awkwardly. My Own Words reveals in fine relief how much she believes to be at stake.
I think this is the greatest strength of the book: Most of what is included is not easily accessible, or even available at all. The book is primarily comprised of speeches that have not been previously published ... There are obvious limitations to a collection of essays like this. At times, it is repetitive because Ginsburg often includes the same information in many speeches ... There is little self-reflection, as one would hope to find in an autobiography, nor is there the external perspective that ideally is a key part of a biography. There is relatively little about her early life ... But, overall, the book works well in presenting Justice Ginsburg’s life as a lawyer and a justice. It conveys her warmth and caring, her passion for justice and especially for equality for women, and her views on judging. Although there are a number of books out now about Ginsburg, this one is special precisely because it is in her own words.
[Ginsburg] comes across not as the rock-star liberal jurist her adoring fans celebrate, but a cool cucumber in the white-hot world of Washington, a voice of reason speaking up for civility ... What emerges is not a portrait of a take-no-prisoners advocate but a strategic legal plotter who understands how to bring her audience around to her point of view.
With the assistance of legal scholars Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, Justice Ginsburg has assembled a large number of speeches, opinions and other writings. Together, they treat the reader to a diverse array of pieces that trace her pathbreaking career and shine a bright light on some of her signature accomplishments ... Justice Ginsburg continues to be an active questioner and writer on the Supreme Court and is cooperating actively with Ms. Hartnett and Ms. Williams as they labor to complete her authorized biography. That volume promises to be interesting and entertaining. In the meantime, lawyers and non-lawyers alike can whet their appetite by perusing My Words for valuable perspectives on the life of an American legal pioneer.