Breaking In

Title: Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice
Published by: Sarah Crichton Books


Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice is the story of how two forces providentially merged—the large ambitions of a talented Puerto Rican girl raised in the projects in the Bronx and the increasing political presence of Hispanics, from California to Texas, from Florida to the Northeast—resulting in a historic appointment by President Barack Obama. Succeeding the retiring justice David Souter, Sotomayor in 2009 became the first Hispanic ever named to America’s highest court. But this is not just a tale about breaking barriers as a Puerto Rican. It’s about breaking barriers as a justice. Journalist Joan Biskupic pulls back the curtain on the Supreme Court nomination process, revealing the networks Sotomayor built and the skills she cultivated to go where no Hispanic has gone before. We see other potential candidates edged out along the way. And we see how, in challenging tradition, as well as expanding her public persona, Sotomayor has created tension within and beyond the Court’s marble halls. In a book that picks up where Sotomayor’s own memoir left off, Breaking In offers the larger, untold story of the woman who has been called “the people’s justice.”


Praise & Reviews

"Harvest Boon: 7 Great Fall Books"

Time Magazine highlights Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice in its October 13, 2014, print edition and names it one of seven great books for the new Fall season: 

A veteran Supreme Court reporter charts Sotomayor’s evolution from a poor Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx to the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s sense of ethnic identity, Biskupic argues, may be as important a legacy as the Justice’s legal contributions. Read story.

Wall Street Journal,
October 9, 2014 

"Ms. Biskupic sets out to chronicle Justice Sotomayor's career and, in a parallel narrative, to trace the growing influence of the Hispanic population in the United States. ... Ms. Biskupic succeeds at both her tasks. ... Ms. Biskupic is at her journalistic best when she describes this federal judicial-nomination process, one that former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh once described as possessing the 'intricacies of chess and audacity of old-fashioned hardball.'" (Reviewer Kay Hymowitz, Manhattan Institute fellow)

Washington Post,
October 11, 2014

Biskupic "begins with ... Sotomayor's salsa dance at an end-of-term party for the court's justices and staff. ... [T]he vignette introduces the book's theme: that Sotomayor 'spent a lifetime challenging boundaries and disrupting the norm' and that, because she 'was not one to wait her turn,' she was able to exploit 'the cultural and political shifts that merged with [her] life and led to her appointment. ... In the end, Sotomayor does stand out, both as a courageous justice, as able as any of those who joined the court before her, and as an inspiring public figure. ... As Biskupic recognizes, [her public] message is likely to prove as powerful a measure of Sotomayor's impact on our national future as will her contributions to the work of the Supreme Court. (Reviewer Marsha Berzon, judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit)

Green Bag "Exemplary Legal Writing,"  2014 Honoree (Books Category)

Joan Biskupic, Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice  

(See link for all winners in all categories)

Tampa Bay Times
, October 2, 2014:

"Breaking In": A Deft Professional Bio of Sotomayor

Read story by Times Book Editor Colette Bancroft.

Seattle Times,
October 12, 2014

Breaking In is "an examination of what it means to become a celebrity; a deeply reported study of how to concoct a strategy maximizing the chance of a presidential appointment to the Supreme Court; and a journalistic analysis of Sotomayor's court performance so far. ... Biskupic clearly and compellingly recounts how Sotomayor plotted her rise to the pinnacle of the judicial branch of government. ... Most important for the future of the USA, Biskupic explains why Sotomayor is sui generis on a court of nine justices, how she cares more about interpreting the Constitution and court precedent according to what's best for society rather than becoming a coalition builder." (Reviewer Steve Weinberg, legal writer and biographer)

National Review,
November 3, 2014

A ‘Wise Latina’ Rises: “The book’s strong suit is a wealth of detail about the race between Republicans and Democrats for the prize of appointing the first Hispanic justice. It is a primer for anyone with large ambitions, as well as a cautionary tale, since the message conveyed is that skillful manipulation of identity politics may carry the day over more substantial achievement. This is, of course, an old story for both parties, which have at times filled regional, religious, racial, and gender slots with candidates who eclipsed other, arguably better qualified, aspirant. Biskupic’s book is well balanced, setting forth an array of views on Justice Sotomayor. … The book opens with an arresting account of Sotomayor in a bold charm offensive at the 2010 Supreme Court end-of-term party. The story has to be read in full to be believed.…” (Reviewer Margaret A. Little, Connecticut attorney specializing in civil litigation)

Austin American Statesman,
October 8, 2014

"Sotomayor saved UT admissions policy, book says"

“One U.S. Supreme Court justice's passionate behind-the-scenes fight to allow race to be considered in college admissions rescued the University of Texas from a historic legal defeat in 2013, according to a book released Tuesday. Offering a rare look into the secret deliberations of the nation's highest court, author Joan Biskupic’s biography of Justice Sonia Sotomayor details for the first time how the court’s first Hispanic member helped turn an initial 5-3 defeat for UT into a 7-1 decision. ... ”

Education Week,
October 10, 2014

“Fiery Draft Dissent by Sotomayor Influenced Race Case, New Book Says”

“A new book says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor circulated a fiery dissent two terms ago after a tentative majority on the court planned to rule against a race-conscious admissions plan at the University of Texas at Austin.” Read the story by Mark Walsh

U.S. News & World Report,
October 8, 2014

"Sotomayor Brings Salsa, Trouble to the Supreme Court; America may have its first celebrity Supreme Court justice, author Joan Biskupic says"Read the story by Nikki Schwab


Listen to the Slate podcast from Joan Biskupic's appearance at Politics and Prose.

Listen to the interview by Slate's Dahlia Lithwick of Joan Biskupic.

Read a review by John Paul Rollert at Slate: "Joan Biskupic’s new biography of Sonia Sotomayor, Breaking In, opens with a telling story from the justice’s first year on the Supreme Court. At a party celebrating the end of the term, Sotomayor decided to shake up the staid affair. After the law clerks put on a series of “tame” skits, she informed them that their performance 'lacked a certain something.' She signaled a clerk, who produced a stereo. When Latin music began filling the room, before the clerks, her colleagues, and 200 staff members, the newest member of the court began to salsa. ..."

October 9, 2014

“‘She rattles the institution’: How Sonia Sotomayor is transforming the Supreme Court” Read Salon story by Elias Isquith here.

Booklist Publications,
October 15, 2014

“Biskupic, who has covered the Supreme Court for more than 20 years, focuses on the social and political forces that favored Sotomayor's nomination but that might also have tanked it. Sotomayor's strong personality, inspiring background, and ethnic identity combine with a personal charm that has earned her popularity across the nation, but Biskupic ponders how persuasive she will be on a court that resists the change she represents as the justices ponder such sticky issues as affirmative action. Drawing on interviews with Sotomayor and her colleagues, Biskupic offers a compelling look at a justice who continues to face challenges to her right to sit on the bench." (Reviewer Vanessa Bush)

Praise for Breaking In

“If you think books about Supreme Court justices are only for lawyers, think again. Joan Biskupic has written a fascinating story, at once shrewd and sympathetic, about overcoming the fear of failure. Biskupic takes you into the head and heart of the most interesting Supreme Court justice since . . . well there never was a justice like Sotomayor.”
Evan Thomas, author of Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World

“This is a remarkable book about an extraordinary woman in very challenging times. Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir is not complete without Breaking In. Joan Biskupic has done a wonderful and insightful job about the most influential Latina ever. She puts together three incredibly complex elements: her struggling life, the rise of the Latino community, and the intricacies of the Supreme Court. The result is superb. Sotomayor’s mission—that a single person can make a difference in the cause of justice—is transforming our country. You have to read it to know us.”
Jorge Ramos, anchor, Univision/Fusion

“Biskupic — who has written biographies of justices Scalia and O’Connor — combines scholarly rigor with a bit of human admiration in this cleareyed account of how someone advances a judicial career in 21st-century America.”

“.. Biskupic’s book is a fascinating account of the political machinations involved in achieving a Supreme Court judgeship and of Sotomayor’s judicial decisions since her appointment.”
Publishers Weekly, selecting Breaking In as one of the Top Ten Books in Politics for Fall 2014