Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships
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.
Praise for Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships
"A genial, likable tone. Totenberg’s stories are lively but never go on too long; she appears to reflexively turn the reader’s attention to the generosity or small kindnesses of others. She writes, without pretension or self-congratulation, about moments of journalistic triumph of which she has every right to be proud…Her final display of friendship in this book entails laying bare just how frail Ginsburg truly was — and how extraordinary she was to persevere and inspire for as long as she did." – The New York Times Book Review
"Count me among those who rely on NPR reporter Nina Totenberg’s crystalline explanations for all things legal, especially Supreme Court arcana — no one is clearer and more incisive…[Dinner with Ruth] is a memoir about Nina Totenberg, a jaunt through her captivating life and career, nose for the jugular, and forthrightness about her joys and sorrows… What’s not to enjoy about being in Totenberg's sparkling company for an entire book?” – NPR
"Dinners With Ruth is really three excellent books: a memoir of Nina Totenberg’s relatively blessed life; an anecdotal account of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s; and, finally, a paean to the bond of friendship, which, like fine wine, gets better with age." – Star Tribune
"A warm, deeply felt homage to friendship, to what it means to show up and be present for each other, especially in difficult times." – Washington Independent Review of Books
"Totenberg is the voice of authority on all things related to the U.S. Supreme Court... Readers who respect and admire Totenberg’s reporting will understand what is lost and lament what cannot be reclaimed." – Washington Post
“The over-arching theme of this deeply satisfying, beautifully written memoir, is the incredible power of women's friendships to sustain and enrich our lives as we balance conflicting pressures and persistent barriers, in sickness and in health and despite heart-breaking loss.”— ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC News Chief Washington Correspondent and anchor
“Even if the women at the center of the story were not trailblazing boundary-breakers, this would be an extraordinary tale of a lifelong friendship. The fact that Nina and Ruth are each legends in their own right makes this a must-read for anyone with an interest in history, politics, the law and media.” —ARI SHAPIRO, Host of NPR’s All Things Considered
“Outsiders think of Washington as a place of poisonous rivalries, not deep friendships. Nina Totenberg knows differently. “Dinners with Ruth” is a spectacularly charming account of Totenberg’s five decade-long friendship with the celebrated justice. It is also something more—an inspiring love song to the imperative of lasting friendships and an instruction manual in how to nurture them.” —RUTH MARCUS, Deputy Editorial Page Editor and columnist, Washington Post
“A page-turning, endearing look at two remarkable women, friends, and role models. A captivating read, I found it hard to put this book down.”— DAVID RUBENSTEIN, Co-Founder of The Carlyle Group and author of How to Lead and How to Invest
"Readers will come away with a fuller portrait of RBG, but also a wonderful rendering of Totenberg's friendships and perhaps a deeper appreciation for their own."— Shelf Awareness
"Engrossing and engaging... Totenberg's story includes triumphs and failures, good times and bad, and a poignant account of Ginsburg's final illnesses and death." — Booklist (starred review)
"An affectionate, revealing portrait of an important figure in American history." — Kirkus Reviews
"Luminous... Riveting... 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." — Publishers Weekly