Let’s turn away from the executive branch of government for a minute and think about the judiciary. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark is a delightful picture book biography that is organized around a principle central to Justice Ginsburg’s work on the bench and, in fact, to all the workings of representative democracy: disagreeing doesn’t have to make one disagreeable.
In this book, divided roughly equally between Ginsburg’s childhood, her adulthood work as an advocate, and her legacy on the bench, Debbie Levy explores the idea of disagreement. We see how Ginsburg’s mother disagreed with prevailing cultural expectations for girl and how Ginsburg herself disagreed with anti-Semitic prejudice as well as elementary school expectations, such as expecting left-handed children to learn to write with their right hands. Ginsburg–and we as readers–see that sometimes disagreement leads others to change their minds (Ginsburg wrote with her left hand) but sometimes it doesn’ (Ginsburg still had to take home economics).
In the last section of the book, about Ginsburg’s legacy on the Court, Levy directly addresses her relationship with her most prominent foe.
Justice Ginsburg has disagreed most often with the legal views of Justice Antonin Scalia. But they didn’t just complain. They shared their conflicting ideas. Each pointed out weaknesses in the other’s arguments. Adn after the opinions were written…the two justices had fun with each other! They didn’t let disagreements about law get in the way of a long friendship.
One page has an illustration of Scalia and Ginsburg, in their judicial robes, leaning toward each other, fingers pointing, arguing. The facing page has illustrations of snapshots showing them parasailing together and riding an elephant together. It’s a wonderful juxtaposition. And a truth worth remembering: that you can disagree with someone else’s deepest-held political views and still appreciate and respect each other.
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley. Simon and Schuster: 2016.
I participate every Wednesday in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge at Kid Lit Frenzy.