The teenager carried a long-handled hoe. Her bosses had left her unsupervised to work the vast, northern Illinois vegetable field. As the summer sun beat down, she moved up and down the rows clearing weeds. When it came time for the midday break, Linda Reyna Yañez sought refuge under a shade tree—to read. At that time the 16-year-old from the Rio Grande Valley was devouring books by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Victor Hugo, and anything she could find by Thomas Hardy.
Yañez was no stranger to the fields. She had spent earlier summers picking cotton in Texas. Often there was no bathroom during the long days between the rows—a fact that still grates. But the hard work paid off at the end of each summer, when she and four siblings used the money they’d earned to buy school supplies and clothes.
Yañez’s improbable life journey has taken her from farm fields to Harvard University to her current position as the first Hispanic female appellate judge in Texas history. Now she’s on the move again.
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