Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Last Interview and Other Conversations – review

In seven revealing interviews, the late US supreme court justice sheds light on her astonishing career in a profession once the preserve of men

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from law school in 1959, women made up 3% of lawyers in the US and there were no women judges on the federal courts of appeal. The most she could aspire to, the late justice tells us, in one of seven interviews that make up this timely and inspiring book, was to earn her living as a lawyer, but even that was no foregone conclusion. The story of Bader Ginsburg’s rise from one of nine women in her class at Harvard Law School to a justice on the supreme court and a beloved American figure, becomes no less astonishing the more times one revisits it.

Bader Ginsburg died in September this year, at the age of 87. This book, marketed as The Last Interview, is part of a series of interview compilations with late thinkers and writers that features, among others, James Baldwin, Nora Ephron and Hannah Arendt. It’s a wonderfully wide-ranging and unmediated way to engage with each subject and to be transported back to their earliest ventures in public life. When we meet Bader Ginsburg, it is as a 38-year-old speaking to the New York Times on the occasion of her accepting a professorship at Columbia University. The year is 1972 and it is the first time Columbia has chosen a woman for a full-time post higher than lecturer. Reading Bader Ginsburg’s comments gives one slight vertigo – to encounter her as a young woman and see, for a second, the entire arc of her life, right up to her death – and an intimacy with the justice that a more conventional retrospective might lack.

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