LJ: I’m going to Harvard for college next year. I’m not sure what I want to study yet. I’m really interested in English. I love reading and literature. But also, I’m really interested in medicine. I think the concept of biology and medicine is fascinating, so I think I’m just going to kind of explore and figure it out. Either of those fields I would be really passionate to go into.

SM: What draws you to medicine or literature? What is it about those things that relate to who you are and what you’re interested in?

LJ: The written word, specifically, has just always seemed so integral to me. I can’t imagine not loving literature and writing and reading. I think it’s because I get to express myself, but also because it’s kind of a way of understanding the world.

A wall that Leila and two of her best friends signed at the beginning of their senior year.

Sarahbeth Maney

For medicine, I wasn’t really that interested in it until high school. You know, my dad’s a doctor, and I’ve kind of been able to see and hear about his work.… I talk to my dad and ask him why he likes working in medicine, and he says it’s just because he loves to help people. I feel the same way. I think I really would love to help people.

But I also had a really good biology teacher in high school [who] got me passionate about the concepts and interested in the work. I think that got me excited about medicine as well.

SM: Who are some of the poets you like to read and that inspire you?

LJ: I really love Ocean Vuong. I love his work. He’s fantastic. I’ve read all his books that I can get my hands on, and I especially enjoy his way with words. I also love Elizabeth Acevedo — I really admire her.

Sarahbeth Maney

She’s not a poet, but my favorite writer is Toni Morrison — I think she’s fantastic. This year in English class we got a chance to read Beloved; reading it in a class, where we could dive deep into what she said, we really got everything out of that book. She has this way of using words…to get to the heart of things she cares about and bring those issues and concepts to the reader’s attention and make [them] matter.… To use my writing to touch people is what I really want to do, so I look up to her a lot.

SM: Is there something you’re most excited or nervous about when you think of starting college?

LJ: I’m really excited to be independent. Be in a new environment. Meet people. I guess I would be nervous, when I think of all the changes. It’s a big, big life change, so there’s a lot going on in that respect.

SM: It is a big change, but it will be so much fun. I’m so excited for you to start this new journey.

The last time we talked, you mentioned you would see things on social media about your mom or articles about her and that, for you, it’s your mom, and she’s always going to be your mom even though people have a different view of who she is. 

I’m curious for your perspective on what it’s been like to grow up with your mom working on the national stage, especially now that she’ll be joining the Supreme Court.

LJ: It’s a really interesting and strange thing, having people know her and know who she is.

I’m very, very proud of the work she’s done to get here. And I think she’s prepared for it. I think we’re all prepared for it.

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