That was a sentiment Melissa Morales, 11, knows well. As a fifth grader, she said, she read 114 books during the school year. She sat in the front row during the event, and her mouth opened in surprise when Justice Sotomayor admitted that she often misbehaved as a child. (Justice Sotomayor’s family nicknamed her “ají,” or hot pepper, when she was younger.)
“She loves reading, and I am obsessed with reading,” said Melissa, whose parents are Puerto Rican and Irish. Her abuela once bought her a keychain of a coquí that makes the croaking sound from which it gets its name. She has it clipped on her school backpack.
Melissa, who wants to study at M.I.T. and work for NASA before becoming the first female president, said that Justice Sotomayor had opened the door for more women to join the court and other levels of government.
“I’ve never read a book that inspired me so much,” she said. She was especially amazed to learn how Justice Sotomayor found a haven in books after her father’s death. “It was so amazing how in such dark times, she was able to have the light shine in by just going to the library.”
At the event, Justice Sotomayor answered previously submitted questions as she took pictures with children and gave them hugs. One child clung to her as she answered a question about what she does when she’s afraid. Others piled around her as she spoke about growing up in the South Bronx.
The housing projects were not the prettiest of places, she said, but they weren’t the worst. “People really loved each other,” she said.
Justice Sotomayor’s references to her Puerto Rican background were familiar to Yolanda Miranda, 39, who attended the event with her sister, Monica, 42, and their daughters.
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