Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Defining And Defending Equality

There are those who see injustice and speak out loud about it.  There are those who see injustice, speak out loud about it, and take action to correct it.  There are a select few among us who see injustice, speak out loud about it, take action to correct it, and devote their entire lives to inequities.

At eighty-seven years old, there is a woman, currently sitting on the Supreme Court who is one of these people.  In her twenty-seven years of service to our Constitution and laws, her voice has not wavered. Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Disney Hyperion, February 11, 2020) written by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Eric Velasquez is a memorable portrait in words and images of a remarkable woman.

Ruth's mother, Celia, wanted to go to college,
but her family had only enough money
to pay for their eldest son to attend.  
When Celia married, her husband
made her stop working as a bookkeeper.
He worried that people would think
he couldn't support his family.

For her daughter, Ruth, Celia wanted other choices.  She wanted her to be firm in her resolve, but to do so without animosity.  Both her parents supported strong academic pursuits, as well as outside interests.  The family observed lighting of candles on Friday evenings to begin the Sabbath.  While her childhood was filled with a wide range of opportunities and experiences, deep sadness came to Ruth right before she graduated from high school.  Her mother died.

College at Cornell exposed different conditions, more constraints for women than men.  An event there determined the course Ruth's life would take.  Prior to graduating from college Ruth met her perfect life partner, Martin Ginsburg, an attorney.  He fully supported her endeavors.  When Marty began his service in the military, Ruth began working in government, but when she informed her employer she was pregnant, her responsibilities were diminished, and she was required to leave in her ninth month.

Graduating first in her class paved the way for Ruth to attend Harvard Law School, but here too, she faced gender differences.  Ruth and her husband shared parenting, and Martin was the better cook.  When they were both working on their law degrees, Martin got cancer.  Ruth continued her studies and made sure Martin missed nothing.  She rarely got enough sleep.  Marty survived and was hired in a firm in New York City. Ruth completed her law education at Columbia Law School.  She tied for top of the class.  Not one judge would hire her as a law clerk, until a professor intervened.

In 1963 Ruth was teaching at Rutgers University in New Jersey, getting less pay than a man doing the same work.  Ruth's students, women law students, asked her to teach a class on

women and the law.

Ruth and other female law professors decided to petition the court for equal pay.  They won.  This was the beginning of one successful win after another as Ruth challenged the norms which failed to live up to the Constitution.  Ten years later, in 1973, she argued her first Supreme Court case.  She won with an eight to one vote.  Ruth continued to fight for gender equity, for women and for men. 

In 1993, as a newly sworn-in member of the Supreme Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg stayed the course. Even if a case was not decided to her liking, a dissent could sway another body to take action as in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which President Barack Obama signed into law on January 29, 2009.  A year later Ruth Bader Ginsburg lost the love of her life, Martin Ginsburg died due to cancer.  Today, Ruth is one of three women on the Supreme Court.  May her strength be a guide for us all.

With each reading of the words written by Doreen Rappaport for this book, you will find yourself more in awe of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  The detailed facts allow us to be a participant in many aspects of her life.  Each time Doreen Rappaport gives us an accounting of a certain portion of Ruth's life, she includes a quotation.  This increases the authenticity of the narrative.  Here is a passage.

Ruth tied for first place in her graduating class,
but not one law firm interviewed her.

"Traditional law firms were just
beginning to hire Jews, but to be a
woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot,
that combination was a bit much."  

If the picture on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case does not take your breath away, you might want to make sure you are breathing.  The portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg with the rendering of the Constitution of the United States behind her is wondrous.  (In my humble opinion, it should be hanging in a gallery.)  You expect her to start speaking at any moment.  To the left, on the back, is a red curtain, folded and still.  The title text is placed here along with the author and illustrator names.  Under the secondary title is a bit of lace in reference to the signature jabot for which Ruth is known.

On the golden, painted opening and closing endpapers are two different quotations of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  On the title page between two sets of text, artist Eric Velasquez has placed a judge's gavel and block.  These stunning paintings by Eric Velasquez vary in size to elevate the text, and to extend the visual interpretation.  They are one-and-one-half pages creating a column for text, smaller insets on a larger image, a series of vertical panels on two pages, two horizontal panels on a single page, or dramatic double-page pictures.

The elements included in each illustration reveal the meticulous research by Eric Velasquez.  The facial features, body postures, and clothing reflect the historical perspective and moment being showcased.  Through his illustrations we are able to watch a young girl grow and change to become the esteemed person she is today.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a one-and-one-half page picture with a column on the left for text.  Eric Velasquez's painting of the Constitution of the United States supplies the canvas for an image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  It is a depiction of a younger Ruth.  We see a greater portion of her body, from the waist upward.  She is dressed in attire for this period.  She has a copy of the Constitution in her right hand.  She faces readers with a look of calm determination on her face.  This page is discussing the lawsuit for equal pay for women professors.  They did win.  In this illustration, as in all of them, Eric Velasquez is masterful with his use of light and shadow.

Even after repeated readings, readers will feel their respect and admiration of this woman climb.  Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg written by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Eric Velasquez is an outstanding presentation of this woman's contributions toward equality for all. At the close of the book are Important Dates, Author's Note, Illustrator's Note, Selected Bibliography, To Learn More About Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Acknowledgements and Source Notes.  You could pair this with Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R. B. G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Stacy Innerst.  You will want to include this title in your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Doreen Rappaport and Eric Velasquez and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Eric Velasquez has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Please take a few moments to see what titles were selected this week by other participants in the 2020 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by educator Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy.

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