Losing Sonia Sotomayor: An American Life After Multiculturalism

Losing Sonia Sotomayor: An American Life After Multiculturalism (Houston: Arte Público Press) analyzes the spectacular life story of the first “Latina” Supreme Court Justice and how her own self-making as a possibility model for Latinos, allows us to understand both the appeal and the limits of “representative personhood”; a distinctly “American” from of political emergence that—from Emerson to Thurgood Marshall—subtends our belief in democratic narratives of success through diligence, ambition, and hard work.

The chronological narrative of Sotomayor’s life story begins with her parents’ migration from Puerto Rico to the United States during the early 1940s by juxtaposing Puerto Rican social, historical, and cultural happenings alongside U.S. cultural history, including the rise and subsequent dismantling of “Affirmative Action” during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. The book ultimately analyzes how Sotomayor is admired in a way that is intelligible in contemporary American culture by making her represent the elusive fulfillment of an exhausted “American dream.”

In the process, Sonia Sotomayor becomes a figure through whom the character and promise of American political life can be articulated anew for scores of disenfranchised nationals by substituting the political dirty work of inclusion required by Latino subjects with the simulacrum of inclusion offered through the American life story of social mobility and success through assimilation.

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