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Dinners with Ruth : a memoir on the power of friendships
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Library Journal Review
In a memoir constructed around the strength of women's friendships to bring about social change, NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent Totenberg focuses on her friendship with Ruth Bader Ginsberg. They met when Totenberg was a reporter at the National Observer, seeking information on Ginsberg's legal brief asking the Supreme Court to declare a law that discriminated on the basis of sex to be unconstitutional, and the result was a 50-year friendship. With a 125,000-copy first printing.
Publishers Weekly Review
In this luminous debut, NPR legal correspondent Totenberg delivers a riveting account of her 50-year friendship with Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The daughter of Polish violin virtuoso Roman Totenberg, the author was raised in the 1940s and '50s in a bustling home filled with music and culture. After giving Boston University a college try, Totenberg dropped out to become a journalist. Parallel to her story runs an equally enthralling look at Ginsburg's life, from her modest childhood in the 1930s as the daughter of immigrant factory workers to studying law at Harvard. Their lives collided in 1971 when Ginsburg, arguing a sex discrimination case before the Supreme Court, received a phone call from Totenberg, who was covering the story for the National Observer. While their friendship saw plenty of historic highs, including Totenberg's groundbreaking legal work at NPR and Ginsburg's confirmation as a SCOTUS justice in 1993, Totenberg writes, "The irony is that while work... defined each of us... our friendship was never about work." Indeed, it's Totenberg's writing about the personal hardships they overcame together--including the death of Totenberg's first husband, Sen. Floyd Haskell, and Ginsburg's bouts with colon, pancreatic, and lung cancer--that imbues her narrative with emotional depth, making this portrait of friendship all the more captivating. Readers are sure to be charmed. (Sept.)
Booklist Review
Longtime NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg shares the engrossing and engaging story of her friendship with the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It's not surprising that these two powerful women became close confidants, despite very different upbringings. Both women came of age in the 1970s, a time when women were attempting to gain access to careers previously dominated by men. Totenberg and Ginsburg both often found themselves to be the only women in the room, and it was inevitable that their paths would cross. The author's smooth storytelling style effectively blends recaps of their developing relationship with landmark judicial decisions and political events. She offers fresh insights into the dealings of Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court, but her personal anecdotes (she and Ginsburg once skipped a conference to go shopping; Ginsburg officiated at Totenberg's wedding), her numerous shout-outs to other women who helped her in her career, and her musings about the nature of friendship are the most compelling parts. Totenberg's story includes triumphs and failures, good times and bad, and a poignant account of Ginsburg's final illnesses and death. Expect considerable publicity and lots of well-deserved demand.
Kirkus Review
Longtime NPR correspondent Totenberg recounts her friendship with the late Supreme Court justice. Many readers may not know that Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) studied literature with the noted (and notorious) Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov at Cornell, "where she truly came alive." What Totenberg and Ginsburg shared over a half-century friendship, much spent over bowls of bouillabaisse, was a profound love of conversation and learning, to say nothing of the law, to which Totenberg had a sort of trial by fire, covering, among many other events, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. "For understandable reasons," she writes, "he's never granted me an interview, and when we attend the same social events, I keep my distance." Ginsburg was a devoted student and thoughtful interpreter of the law, which made her invaluable as a member of the court. As the author writes, she also had a gift for being "able to separate fierce intellectual disagreements from personal animus," which helps explain why the aforementioned Thomas, with whom she often disagreed, paid deeply felt tribute to her after her death. Indeed, counseled Ginsburg, "It helps, sometimes, to be a little deaf when unkind or thoughtless words are spoken." She has been honored and eulogized countless times since her death in 2020, but, Totenberg reminds us, while Ginsburg sought points of common ground in developing arguments and dissents, she was still the victim of partisan politics. In a typically nasty move, Mitch McConnell denied her a place lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, which the Senate controls, and she was honored in Statuary Hall, the purview of the House. McConnell did not attend. "Even as many conservatives will welcome a far more conservative, some might say extreme, Court," Totenberg closes, meaningfully, "many in America may well be surprised to miss a more centrist Court, as they will miss RGB." An affectionate, revealing portrait of an important figure in American history. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Celebrated NPR correspondent Nina Totenberg delivers an extraordinary memoir of her personal successes, struggles, and life-affirming relationships, including her beautiful friendship of nearly fifty years with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Four years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth's legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated "on the basis of sex" to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship.

Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story's heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. During the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina's first husband, Ruth drew her out of grief; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth's beloved husband died. They shared not only a love of opera, but also of shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth's last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were "reserved for Ruth" in Nina's house.

Dinners with Ruth also weaves together compelling, personal portraits of other fascinating women and men from Nina's life, including her cherished NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer; her beloved husbands; her friendships with multiple Supreme Court Justices, including Lewis Powell, William Brennan, and Antonin Scalia, and Nina's own family--her father, the legendary violinist Roman Totenberg, and her "best friends," her sisters. Inspiring and revelatory, Dinners with Ruth is a moving story of the joy and true meaning of friendship.
Table of Contents
Prologue Bouillabaisse for Ruthp. ix
1The First Stirrings of Friendshipp. 1
2Making Friends and a Few Enemiesp. 41
3Unexpected Friendsp. 52
4Friends and Lovep. 62
5Friends in Needp. 76
6Friends of the Courtp. 95
7Friends and Confidencesp. 106
8Supreme Friendsp. 121
9Male Friendsp. 145
10Friends in Joyp. 159
11Nourishing Friendshipsp. 178
12Friendship and Hardshipsp. 189
13Fame and Friendshipp. 203
14Friendship Is a Choicep. 219
15Losing Friendsp. 231
16Finding My Father's Long-Lost Friendp. 245
17Farewell to My Friendp. 257
Epiloguep. 271
Notesp. 281
Acknowledgmentsp. 289
Photo Creditsp. 291
Indexp. 293
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