Becoming by Michelle Obama
People who enjoy autobiographies that don’t feel overly edited or ghost written.
In a nutshell:
Former (sob) First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story, from early childhood through her departure from the White House.
“This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the my-isn’t-that-impressive path — and keep you there for a long time.”
“…because having been brought up in a family where everyone always showed up, I could be extra let down when someone didn’t show.”
“As the only African American First Lady to set foot in the White House I was ‘other’ almost by default. If there was a presumed grace assigned to my white predecessors, I knew it wasn’t likely to be the same for me.”
Why I chose it:
I mean, duh. It’s Michelle Obama. How could I not?
I love the fact that Obama doesn’t become First Lady of the U.S. until page 282 in a 426 page book. She was only First Lady for eight years, but I can see a lesser publishing house or editor wanting to really focus on those eight years. In fact, given what was kept in and what was left out, I can see that this could EASILY have been a two-book volume. Instead, it is a true auto-biography that gives us real insight into who Michelle Robinson is, and how her life became entwined with our 44th President.
Obama is a great writer. I found her stories evocative, and interesting. I could picture the apartment she grew up in, her law office, her family. And while fairly early on her future husband enters the picture, the focus is still on her and how she experienced all these adventures. He’s almost a minor character; I feel like I get more of a sense of her children than her husband. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing — he tells his story, and has told his story, many times. This is about HER and how she felt about the things she has experienced as a Black woman filling a role that no Black woman has filled before.
It was hard to read again about some of the political things — reading asshole Mitch McConnell’s offensive and frankly anti-American comments, and being reminded of how aggressively Republicans fought to harm so many people in the US by blocking any sort of progress, just pissed me off even more than my regularly daily pissed-offedness thanks to the current President. But it was fascinating to learn a bit more about how the White House works, and how their family adjusted to that life.
I found myself relating to her in some ways – she is a planner, and super organized, and had a good home life growing up. I related hard to the quote I included up top, about staying on a path because one is worried about what other’s might think. I spent most of my youth through the end of college thinking I was going to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t until the summer before I was supposed to enroll at UCLA Law that I got the courage to tell my folks I didn’t want to do that. I had to figure everything out from scratch, and it terrified me. And I did another form of that again a year ago, when I moved overseas and left my career behind. For some of us its hard to not care what other people think, and it was refreshing to see someone be so honest about that.
There were definitely quite a few things that were either edited out or just never written. There is virtually nothing in there about her time in law school, which I found odd. But there is a lot about her time in college, so perhaps the two experiences weren’t different enough to be considered compelling reading? There is also not a ton in the White House, nor a lot about the second Presidential campaign. It’s a good read, but some of it does feel a bit ‘wait, you’re not even going to mention that?’, which is what kept me from giving it the full five stars.
I started this book in January and found myself only reading it in spurts, primarily because I tend to read on the go, and this book is HUGE. It was just too heavy to cart back and forth. But I sucked it up and read the back half in two days. So it’s not a slow read, or a dense read, but it’s not a book you can stick in a small purse and bring with you on the bus.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it AND Pass to a Friend