Get ready to be inspired by
, Debbie Levy's children's book about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg...
Jen: What inspired you to write a children’s book focusing on Ruth Bader Ginsburg?
Debbie: I knew that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States and the first Jewish woman on the Court. I knew before that, she was a federal appeals court judge in Washington, D.C. Before that, one of leading lawyers in the field of equal rights for women and girls. What I didn’t know, until I started reading more deeply about her, is that she has been disagreeing with unfairness and with things that are just plain wrong from the time she was a little girl. So what I learned is that the story of her life offers this inspiring lesson: disagreeing does not make you disagreeable, and important change often happens one disagreement at a time. RBG’s lifetime of disagreeing, resisting, persisting, not concurring, and dissenting—all without trash-talking or hurling invective at those who oppose her ideas—is a terrific model for girls and boys who find themselves up against circumstances they believe are unjust or wrong. Don’t stay silent in the face of injustice! Speak out! As she says, “Fight for the things that you care about. But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
Jen: How did Ruth’s childhood experiences pave the way for a life dedicated to justice?
Debbie: As I mentioned earlier, RBG has been disagreeing with unfairness since she was a little girl—disagreeing with the “No Jews or Dogs Allowed” sign she saw outside a hotel when traveling with her parents, with the idea that girls couldn’t do big things in the world, with teachers who said she should write with her right hand (even though she is left-handed), with the rule that girls had to take home ec at school but were barred from learning how to use tools in shop class. I think these childhood experiences made her aware of, and led her to think about, problems of exclusion and discrimination, and the importance of standing up for inclusion and equal treatment.
Jen: How has Justice Ginsburg’s personal journey helped women like Hillary Clinton?
Debbie: This is an interesting question! I would say that both women’s journeys help women, girls, boys, and men. I think we all benefit from women who break down barriers in their own professional journeys, paving the way for those who come after, no matter their gender.
Jen: As moms, how can we better encourage our daughters to strive for excellence in all areas of their lives?
Debbie: First, we can model independent thinking and we can model hard work and effort, because excellence doesn’t just spring forth on demand. We have to work for it. Second, I think it’s important to make sure our children know that there are many meanings of “excellence.” Maybe your child isn’t going to be an excellent English student; maybe she will be an excellent listener and friend. I hope we value both equally.
Jen: On a personal note, have you ever met Justice Ginsburg? If yes, what words best describe her? If no, what one question would you like to ask her?
Debbie: I haven’t yet met RBG. She did review the manuscript that became this book, though, for which I’m grateful. And she did give me access to her papers at the Library of Congress. As for one single question, that’s tough! One that comes to mind is: If you hadn’t become a lawyer, what career path would you like to have followed? Justice Ginsburg has often said she would like to have been an opera singer, but, as she acknowledges, she can’t carry a tune; so I would have to instruct her that that answer is off-limits!
Pick up your own copy of I Dissent here.
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