Friend of the Month: Sheryl Berkowitz

Attorney Sheryl Berkowitz grew up in Brooklyn, New York, went to college in Washington, D.C. – where she became involved in political and community-based organizing – and went on to earn her law degree at Northeastern in Boston. She landed in Miami in 1986, spent some time living in Israel and Bolivia since then, and is a longtime Friend of the Fair.

Tell me about your time in D.C.

I was studying political science and working my way through school – waitressing, working as a clerk, a secretary, phone sales – anything I could do to make money. But I also always had an internship. I actually worked for Shirley Chisholm.

Oh, wow!

Yes, I just walked in and said, “Hi, I’d like to work here.” [laughs] Washington was amazing because every group, every organization that worked for the country, every special interest group, every political group – you could go into any office and say, “I’d like to intern here. I want to learn.”

How did you end up in Miami?

I went to law school in Boston at Northeastern, and Northeastern has a co-op program where you go to school for a few months and then go into the field and work for a few months, as a legal intern or law clerk. My first co-op was in Miami and I loved it. I ended up doing three of my co-op internships here. I worked for Zuckerman Spaeder Taylor and Evans, Podhurst Orseck, PA and Judge Eugene Spellman of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. I kept coming back and then I ended up moving here. Lawyer by day, disco queen by night. [laughs]

OK, you have to tell me about that.

Oh, I used to go to all the clubs downtown; I loved to dance! A lot of them had contests – I even won a cruise one time. My friends and I would dance all night long and then go to work the next day.

It was such a great time to be in Miami. Everything was just beginning – we were getting our sports teams, the ballet, and Book Fair, which was a part of Miami’s reinvention and putting it on the map. For me, and for many people, Book Fair is something you put on your calendar. You know when it’s coming and people go – not only people from Miami, but people from all over. That week in November is the place to be, and I think a lot of people feel that way.

You’ve been coming to Book Fair almost since its beginning.

Yes, even when I was living outside the country I’d try to schedule my visits back to coincide with the Fair, and after I had children I brought them every year, even when they were still in strollers. My kids loved Book Fair! And I felt like I was a very cool mom because I was exposing them to so many different ideas, books, authors, and the culture, in a place where there were kids from all different parts of Miami. It was like a candy store for them.

What are some of your favorite Friend perks?

I love that I can step into that VIP line and get into the room faster. [laughs] But what I really love is that anyone who understands what Friends of the Fair is knows that I’ve made a commitment to the Fair. And I like that – I like that people understand that I have a love of books and that I support Miami Book Fair. And if they’re not a Friend and they see me, my hope is that I inspire them to do the same.

How do you usually Book Fair?

I’ve done Book Fair in every way, shape, or form. Sometimes I’ll go by myself, sometimes it’s with my girlfriends, sometimes I’d bring a date. The people-watching is great! But I do really like going on my own; I love losing myself in the Fair. It’s like being in the largest, most interesting and diverse bookstore in the world. I’d come home with like a year’s worth of books sometimes.

I also love that there are so many different organizations there, too. It gives you a chance to see what people are doing for the community and make a donation to support their work.

What are some of the author sessions you took in last year?

I saw Joan Baez – who I love! – she wrote that book about her doodles. And Jada Pinkett Smith was really, really fascinating. But everyone I saw was phenomenal.

Are you reading anything good right now?

I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, and I read a lot about the Holocaust because that represents my people. I just read The German Girl. Oh, and Dust Child by Nguyen Phan Que Mai. A dust child is a child born of an American soldier in Vietnam. They were really discriminated against and had no place in society. It was unbelievable. Another really good book is Inhuman Trafficking by Mike Papantonio; I just reread that one. And anything by Kristin Hannah.

What’s the one book you think every kid should have on their bookshelf?

I have two. The Giving Tree, because it’s about the importance of giving back and how that makes you feel fulfilled. The second one is The Little Prince, because I love the idea of changing your seat and seeing more of things and getting a different perspective.


Interview by Elisa Chemayne Agostinho; responses have been edited for space and clarity.

Share on Facebook Tweet about this on Twitter

Related posts