Orden en el Museo del Barrio, Aquí Viene el Juez*: Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s Book Signing

*Order in el Museo del Barrio, here comes the judge

Still playing catchup (and not breaking any records unfortunately), Justice Sotomayor’s book signing happened on 1/19 at el Museo del Barrio. To me, it’s one of those museums you always hear about but never knew where it was. El Museo del Barrio is located on E104th Street and 5th Avenue. It’s conveniently across the street from the upper part of Central Park should you choose to take a leisurely stroll after your visit there. It’s accessible by the 4/5/6 train (get off at the 103rd Street stop & walk to 5th Ave). Extremely nervous and ill prepared (no decent camera and no copy of her book), I had to leave early and take a detour to the nearest Barnes & Noble to pick up her memoir. Luckily I found her book without much problem (for a new release, they didn’t put it at the front of the store like they usually do, was it because it was 30% off sticker price?) and checkout was a breeze. Hopped on the train for one quick stop and off I was right in East Harlem. The last time I was there, I was with the then bf (now dh) picking up some pets from the AC&C on E110th (anyone in NYC looking for a pet should definitely check out that place first).

Although her interview wasn’t starting until 3PM, when I arrived at 2PM, the line was down to the corner of the block already (the museum’s front door is actually in the middle of 103rd & 104th Streets). Luckily I was there early to save a place in the line for my companions. Can’t say I wasn’t excited, even if it was to just stand on line, soon we’ll all be sitting in the presence of Justice Sotomayor. It’s such an honor, personally to be in such an atmosphere. Of course the more excited I was, the more nervous I was, and the more nervous I was, the more I was leaning towards puking. Well 3PM came and the line started to move. We all walked inside and got our seats. I’m glad I bought the book outside of the museum. While I support museums, I saved quite a bit buying not from them (~$10 difference). I did see some people going crazy though, purchasing 5+ books. Someone’s getting a Sotomayor signed book for their birthday!

The stage at el Museo del Barrio.

The stage at el Museo del Barrio.

Beautiful artwork in the auditorium of el Museo del Barrio.

Beautiful artwork in the auditorium of el Museo del Barrio.

The inside of the auditorium was beautiful. There were full painted murals on the walls. According to one of the museum’s staff members, he advised people to not go too crazy on the flash- especially if they were taking pictures of the murals- because the flash will degrade the paintings. Very interesting and definitely still did not stop some people who feigned ignorance. That also applied when they advised against using flash when Justice Sotomayor was speaking. I guess that’s one reason why she didn’t look much at the audience during her hour talk.

Justice Sotomayor chatting with Interview Maria Hinajosa.

Justice Sotomayor chatting with Interview Maria Hinajosa.

After a brief wait, our interviewer and host, Ms. Maria Hinajosa came out to a lot of applause. She was pretty funny, cracked jokes, and traded back and forths with Justice Sotomayor. While we loved her energy, we definitely brought down the house when the Justice walked out on stage. She got an extremely loud standing ovation. She discussed her life growing up in the Bronx with an alcoholic father and how that affected her growing up. What stood out most in my mind was in the beginning, when she mentioned how people always look towards her with reverence, and she tells them that they shouldn’t look at her like that, as if she was “better or higher than them.” So down to Earth, Justice Sotomayor wants to be treated equally with the likes of you and I. I can’t say I could do that though. She’s definitely “Sonia from the block”. Throughout the whole interview, they peppered their conversation with some Spanish, which was great considering that pretty much 99% of the crowd were Spanish-speakers, but definitely did not help me and my rusty Spanish skills.

She did take some audience questions at the end, but was running short on time so they breezed quickly through it.

Running short on time, Ms. Hinojosa read through some of the questions audience members had submitted on cue cards. Ms. Sotomayor answered in an impromptu lightning round.

What’s a Latina feminist? “Someone who is ‘tough as nails.’”

Life/work balance? “All of life is choices.”

Would Ms. Sotomayor recommend law school? “Law is the noblest profession.”

Favorite Yankee? “Bernie Williams.”

Most surprising thing about getting to know the president? “He is so tall.”

After they finished their interview (and to Justice Sotomayor getting yet another long standing ovation), everyone rushed out to get on line for her book signing. There were so many people that they had to crowd off dozens in different groups and then admit them 10 at a time. Apparently Justice Sotomayor has a record of signing a certain number of books in her sessions (it was 500 before today) and she was definitely determined to break it today (definitely doable considering there were probably 500+ people there, with some bringing multiple books). Luckily sitting at the end of the auditorium gave me an advantage at the book line, as my wait time was probably about 15 minutes (until I got into the actual signing room). I never really attended a book signing but she had a lot of handlers. I mean, every 5 feet, someone would give you the once over, and tell you if you were holding the book wrong (I was told to put the cover flap a certain way so it wouldn’t bother Justice Sotomayor). Great tips for the newbs, but it was rather intimidating. I was wondering if we would ever all get patted down at one point or another from the entrance to the Justice (we didn’t). We also weren’t allowed to take any pictures of her while she was signing, which seemed silly. I read that she shook hands but I didn’t see any of that. As usual with anyone of authority, I turn into a bundle of verbal diarrhea. In my head I had what I wanted to say prepared, but when I got in front of her, all I could eke out was, “oh it’s an honor to meet you.” Blah. Not bad but I could have done better. She thanked me for coming and for buying her book. I guess she had to say that to everyone, but even in that cold atmosphere she still managed to make you feel so warm.

All fangirling asides, what am I going to do with her book now? I’m going to have to put it in a airtight box or something. It’s really not every day you get to meet a Justice of the Supreme Court.