Author: Michelle Obama
Rating: 5 Stars
Dates read: 13 Apr 19 – 23 Apr 19
Publication date: 13 Nov 18
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Memoir, Autobiography
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America – the first African-American to serve in that role – she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it – in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations – and whose story inspires us to do the same.
There is no denying that whether you’ve read this book or not, that Michelle Obama is a fairly incredible, inspirational, and beautiful human being. I loved her time as First Lady, and really embraced a lot of what she said, what she meant, and how she acted, and found her to be a great role model, and someone not disillusioned by the world or their position in it. Beyond this, however, I knew little about her life, her motivations, and her story that wasn’t intrinsically linked to Barack and in the public arena for me to devour. The only thing that could be better than reading about such a person was hearing them read their life story to you, so I was ecstatic to find that Michelle has narrated her the audiobook, and have to say that hearing her read about some of the struggles, sacrifices, and successes was an incredible experience.
Michelle Obama has led an interesting life. She has worked hard and sacrificed to become the person she is today and that is evident throughout the story. She delves into her school and home life as a young girl on in the South Side of Chicago. Racial differences and separation were evident and felt, and education (much like it is now) was an obvious path out. Her parents sound like incredible people who guided and fought for her educative and personal rights and who taught her to forge and fight for the best paths and best outcomes, even if they are not wholly visible or believable. I don’t think I need to discuss the actual content and stories within this as they’re for you to enjoy, so I’ve zeroed in on some aspects and points that made me think, that me me laugh, or that I found inspirational.
I know little about her family and was surprised to hear about her father’s battle with MS. There is no reason why I should have known about this before but reading about someone so successful and humble, but reading about her family’s struggles with health and healthcare suddenly made me realise how personal the battle with widespread and affordable access to medical help can be in the US. I am firmly in the camp of appreciating the NHS and wishing that similar schemes were available elsewhere, and reading about how health is viewed and dealt with in a country and family where he didn’t want to allow his weaknesses to be visible or affect those around him, and was reluctant to reach out for medical help for whatever financial or personal reasons.
Education is a huge part of her life, from an early age as a young girl attending school and learning, to the modern day mother in the public eye. Her life has been based on the power of knowledge and how education and intelligence can propel you to higher positions, wealth, and allow you to help others. Whether it’s her mother fighting for her to be educated in a different class and allowing her to flourish, whether it is her work alongside her college studies to further the support for minority ethnicities, or whether it’s working hard to educate and promote inclusion in the working and educative environment, she has always involved herself wholly in her position and never wasted the opportunities she has to improve herself, and where possible, improve those around her too. I am a serially lazy achiever. I am lucky that I was blessed to live in a household that has not wanted for anything, and be born into a family that is both educated and promotes the importance of education. I attended a highly rated and highly academic grammar school and attended a university that is ranked highly in the UK, and even though I took a lot from these experiences, I know that to some degree coasting through these was a wasted opportunity, and so it was fascinating and humbling to hear someone take so much and make so much of all the opportunities that they have had in life.
I think the story of Michelle and Barack’s life is more widely known, but, it was really interesting to read about the more mundane and behind the scenes moments and struggles they had and faced. I loved finding about Barack’s interactions with family and familial life as someone who was actively incorporating him into her life. He has his quirks, as does she, and seeing how they melded these into their home, the momentous moments in their lives, and everything in between made you really feel how they were a couple that was also a famous couple and that they had to personally reconcile this throughout his administration. The sweet moments of him meeting her parents, of him interacting with her mother on election nights, of them making time for date nights after the birth of their children was a normal break from a hectic lifestyle that most parents and couples go through, but the dichotomy of hearing how they battled maintaining this and how much this had a negative affect on certain aspects of society when they became ‘someone’ was really eye-opening. They’re not above counselling and martial struggles but they balance this with their children’s needs and also the need’s of a much broader political society, something I had never really considered and found really interesting.
There is no doubting that they have left a mark on society, and that whether it’s as the first African American elected President of the US, or the first African American woman to be the First Lady in the White House. She candidly discusses interactions with White House staff and the treatment of the personal staff within the household. She openly talks about her dislike for the political arena, and even though I find it disappointing she will never seek office, her honesty about struggling with the political world, the viciousness of the media through the elective and adminstrative time frames, and the battle with maintaining one’s personal and political self is really inspiring and really makes her work and her message that much more meaningful. Her anecdotes from the White House, whether its being introduced to the space by Laura Bush and reciprocating for Melania Trump, whether it’s introducing a dog to their home or wanting a coffee on a balcony for breakfast, sneaking out to see the pride colours light the White House, and receiving political briefs daily, provided an honest and open view into a world I can’t understand but am fascinated by, and into a world that she previously may have thought was inaccessible to woman or ethnic minorities. By doing all she has and continues to do, she makes the world of Washington and politics more accessible, even in her candid dislike.
I really do wish that someone like her would be welcomed in office in the US. I wish she would stand because I believe that in a world that is disillusioned but he current political climate she could do some good. I wasn’t ready to read a book from an American leader and have left Barack’s pieces for a later time for this very disillusioned reason, and found her book to be a light in a see of political mess. Her story is one of personal strength in a world that she wasn’t initially welcomed into but made her name and is now a world where it would be unimaginable for her not to belong. Her intelligence and warmth shines through, as does her love for her family and fellow human beings, and this memoir has made me think, reflect, and have hope, something that I didn’t think would be the outcome of essentially just reading another book. I can’t rate this memoir, and indeed the audiobook highly enough, and can’t describe how much this was needed.!