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Book excerpt: "Dinners with Ruth" by Nina Totenberg

In her new book "Dinners with Ruth" (published September 13 by Simon & Schuster, a division of Paramount Global, which owns CBS), NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg writes of the power of friendship, including the very special ties she formed with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Read an excerpt below, and don't miss Nancy Cordes' interview with Nina Totenberg on "CBS Sunday Morning" September 4!

Simon & Schuster

Friends play a unique role in our lives. We all, to varying degrees, have family, and for some, like me, it is a source of love, closeness, and wonderful support, but it is not that way for everyone. Beyond our biological, relational, or marital families, each of us is given the opportunity to establish a family of friends. Friends can sometimes do things for you that your own family cannot. They might even do some things better or see things more clearly.  

My appreciation of friendship has deepened over the years; life with its twists and turns has taught me much about the intensity of friendship and its value. I, who started out fiercely independent and doggedly focused, have found myself at various points humbled by events and challenges beyond my control. Repeatedly, the outstretched hand that has raised me up is friendship—and I am also deeply fortunate to count my sisters among my closest of friends.

Friends are the ones who rush to you when trouble strikes, they are the ones who stand loyally by your side, they are the ones who find the helpful words and perform the acts of kindness that blunt the very rough spots in our world. Friendship is also reciprocal. Reach out to your own friends when they are in need, and you will be rewarded many times over.

In my career, I have been blessed to cover fascinating newsmakers and vital issues, and to break some big stories, but what resonates now are the extraordinary people I have come to know, and whom I have been able to call my friends. My life story is interwoven with them and has been infinitely richer for them. These pages are the stories of friends, my love letter to my friends, and ultimately the story of friendship with one very special woman. For nearly fifty years, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and I built our friendship. As with my other friendships, what we built made our lives immeasurably richer.

On the surface, Ruth and I were a classic example of "opposites attract." The superficial similarities of our backgrounds—we are both the children of immigrants and both of us came from Jewish homes—were outnumbered by the differences. She graduated tied for first in her law school class, I never completed college. She married and became a mother in her early twenties, I was single until my mid-thirties, and made the choice to forgo children, in part because I knew I could never be a superwoman like Ruth and others who somehow were able to do everything well. Ruth was my most famous friend, but as you will read in these pages, for women of my era who fought to get in the door, never mind break the glass ceiling, friendship was something special. In a very real sense, it became the Old Girl Network. Indeed, dig deeper and one will also find some very strong underlying themes in my friendship with Ruth. Our paths were not necessarily destined to cross—and how they ultimately did requires a bit of setup and explanation—but once we found each other, in the year 1971, we were destined to become friends.

From "Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships" by Nina Totenberg. Copyright © 2022 by Nina Totenberg. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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