Thanks to her powerful stances on social justice and civil rights, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has become a cultural icon. Becoming RBG traces Ginsberg’s childhood and her legal career to her eventual appointment to the Supreme Court. Readers also learn about her personal life, such as her loving and supportive relationships with her husband and mother and her cooking tribulations. There is plenty to enjoy in the text, although there are some aspects that keep it from being a total home run.

The details of Ginsberg’s childhood through her early legal career are quite well done because of the way they mix the personal and public. In addition to learning about Ruth’s success as a student, the story tells the reader about her experiences with anti-Semitism and gender discrimination, setting the stage for her legal career. Ginsberg’s childhood and her personal relationships are well-portrayed and add charm to a work that focuses predominantly on her career. The story also clearly captures Ginsberg’s passion and abilities, and that with the mix of personal and public create an inspirational and engaging read.

The illustrations capture Ginsberg’s passion and explain certain aspects of her career without weighing the reader down. That being said, there are parts where text is broken up unnecessarily, and there are images where people appear with Ginsberg but are not clearly identifiable unless they have appeared before. The last few pages of the book are predominantly text with an image of Ginsberg—a jolting diversion from the rest of the text that makes the last few pages a bit of a slog.

Later in the book, it is difficult to fully appreciate her impact as a lawyer and how she fits into the broader conversation. One example of this is the article, Jane Crow, which drew connections between gender and racial discrimination and had an impact on Ginsberg’s legal arguments. The comic does not clarify that Pauli Murray (a black female lawyer and activist) co-wrote the article until much later in the text; the delay results in a less clear demonstration of Murray’s influence on Ginsberg as effectively as compared to other individuals, such as Ginsberg’s mother Celia Bader and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Another point that could have been clarified is the different level of scrutiny laws can undergo; that makes some of the latter parts of Ginsberg’s legal journey a little unclear and, at times, makes it difficult to fully understand the impact of Ginsberg’s work and its contributions to civil rights as a whole. While these issues don’t entirely detract from the work, they—along with the set-up of the last few pages—keep the work from rising to its full potential.

Despite the issues mentioned, Becoming RBG is a solid work that will likely appeal to RBG fans who are interested in an easily digestible and triumphant biography, and libraries will likely want to purchase it for this reason. Libraries will be excited to know that there is a hardback version available for purchase, and there is a bibliography and timeline available at the end. Simon & Schuster recommends this for readers ten and above. Because the work goes into some detail about social issues and law but not too much detail, this recommendation makes sense as a starting point. Tween, teens, and adults will likely be the most interested.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s Journey to Justice
By Debbie Levy
Art by Whitney Gardner
ISBN: 9781534424562
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 10 & up

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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