TATTOOS, HIP HOP, AND RUTH BADER GINSBURG READING ‘NOTORIOUS RBG’
If working in criminal defense for over three decades has taught me anything, it’s that the judicial system can feel inaccessible to regular people. The impact that judges and their rulings can have on our lives is significant, but parsing these often dryly written decisions rarely makes for a good read. “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg” sets out to change that. Part biography, part pop culture collage, “Notorious RBG” is a strangely wonderful balancing act. The authors, journalist Irin Carmon and federal court clerk Shana Knizhnik, tell the inspiring story of Justice Ginsburg’s career through memes, hip- hop, and a healthy dose of “#millennial” irreverence. To understand how such an unlikely blend of media came to be, you have to know a bit about the Supreme Court and internet history.
dissenting opinions on several landmark cases from the bench. This act of defiance quickly won the hearts and minds of many young law students, including Knizhnik, who began circulating memes that celebrated the unassuming Supreme Court Justice as an out-and-out warrior, captioning her stoic expression with phrases like “fear the frill.” Knizhnik began curating the works of this new fandom on her blog, which she named “Notorious RBG” — a reference to rap icon Biggie Smalls. The book by the same name carries on the spirit of Knizhnik’s blog, featuring many pictures, memes, illustrations, and even tattoos of the unflappable justice. The difference is that the images in “Notorious” provide a backdrop for Carmon’s writing. A contributor to the Washington Post and MSNBC, Carmon has interviewed Justice Ginsburg in the past and called on many of the justice’s friends and family to flesh out her image. From Ginsburg’s early work as a litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union to her current workout routine, Carmon manages to humanize Ginsburg without detracting from her accomplishments. “Notorious” isn’t for everyone. Those looking for an in-depth analysis of Justice Ginsburg’s underlying philosophy or judicial history will find the book lacking in substance. Furthermore, those who aren’t exactly hip to
internet culture won’t get as much mileage out of this work. And, of course, those who strongly disagree with Justice Ginsburg’s voting history probably won’t touch this biography with a 10-foot pole. But, if you are at all interested in Ginsburg’s inspiring story or want a breezy, easy to understand introduction to the inner workings of the highest court in the land, “Notorious” belongs on your reading list. Despite its bold departure from traditional biographies, “Notorious” reads as an incredibly sincere tribute to one of our nation’s most consequential figures. The authors’ unique approach speaks to the importance of making the judicial system more understandable to the general public. As an attorney who always strives to educate clients on the dry, complex workings of the law, I found “Notorious RBG” to be a refreshing step in the right direction.
“DESPITE ITS BOLD DEPARTURE FROM TRADITIONAL BIOGRAPHIES, ‘NOTORIOUS’ READS AS AN INCREDIBLY SINCERE TRIBUTE TO ONE OF OUR NATION’S MOST CONSEQUENTIAL FIGURES.”
You see, in 2013 Justice Ginsburg broke with court tradition, reading strongly worded
The Law Offices of Elliott Kanter APC | (619) 231-1883
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