Before Obamas, Kennedys were my favorite couple and now like many Americans, the latters are on top of my list. While the Kennedys were the charming royal family of the country, with wealth and status as their birth privileges, Obamas form the true inspiring picture that the spirit of America boasts of. The life stories of Barack and Michelle are full of the hard work, consistency and sensible choices that earned them well-deserved standing in the world. Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” was well-awaited book after the second Presidential term was over and we were all missing the couple. I ordered it soon it was available. We wanted to boys to read it too so we got it on audible as well! I wrote the review but never posted it on the blog and now that I have some time on hand due to quarantine, here are my thoughts on the book:
Starting with childhood years and ending with the second term as the First Lady, Michelle Obama recounts her life story in “Becoming” – her journey from child of a middle class family to an intelligent Ivy league lawyer, who landed in the White House may seem like a fairy tale at a glance, but a lot of sacrifice, effort and determination went into it. She is the first colored First Lady of USA, a highly educated and very accomplished one—and it was refreshing to read about her as her own person and not just as Barack Obama’s wife. The memoir brings her out of the shadow of her man and gives her the chance to present herself as the awesome woman she is.
The book is divided into three sections, “Becoming Me” goes over her childhood in the south side of Chicago, getting accepted in Ivy League school, and her first job; “Becoming Us” covers her and Barack Obama’s journey together as spouses and parents. This also details the time when Obama sets his foot is politics. In part three, “Becoming More”, Michelle relates to her readers her life as First Lady as well as her being mom, a change maker.
Throughout the book, where she was able to express her strong points that attributed to her success, Michelle freely details her faults, shortcomings, and personality flaws, and also how she learnt from them. On many occasions, she could relate with a wide variety of audience – daughters, wives, mothers, Ivy League graduates, lawyers, black women, black men, women trying to conceive, and women with independent thoughts and opinions. This highlighted her multi-dimensional personality to the audience.
Michelle proves that she certainly is woman behind a successful man. As a sharp, intellectual and aggressive individual it must be very hard to give up one’s career, but she did an incredible job of channeling her strengths sensibly in embracing the role she was blessed with. She continued to stay a committed mom, a sincere wife, a great friend, who not only knew her responsibilities and obligations but also her rights both within society and family. During her White House era, she shined as a classy and graceful person, became an icon of empowerment and did admirable work, launched meaningful projects that had positive impact on lives of many people.
The book brings a lot to the table, the story that many of her admirers were not privy of. She has so much more to her credit– depth, strength, charm that her eight plus years of being in public eye could never capture. She is much more hard working, aggressive and humble than she ever let on. It seems like she did not want to eclipse Obama with her own qualities during the presidentship and now that he has received the deserved honor, she has given her own account. This is by no means a hint that she takes all the credit – she just unveils the behind-the-scene efforts and sacrifices. She gives due regard to everyone in her life who has made her who she is— kinsfolk to neighbors, friends to colleagues and of course her husband!
Her life story is very inspiring, and the book does a great job in bringing that to the audience. I love the content but could not make myself like her writing style. Few things that bugged me while reading the book and some after I finished and absorbed it. Frist is the length of the book; much shorter page count could have achieved the same result – maybe better. She does talk about herself a lot and she gives details, but somehow her candor is not exactly “candor”, and her memoir continuously turns into fiction. As a reader, I kept on having to remind myself that it was an autobiography, not a success story of a fictional character. It will be fair to say that she is a great writer, but her impact as a biographer suffers more than just here and there in the book. She says that she is a person who likes things to be done in a certain way, and it shows in her writing—she presents things in a very specific way to the reader. Her effort is genuine, but it seems like a very careful, guarded account where she opens herself up selectively (which I am sure all biographers do but hers seemed more obvious).
And finally, she describes the White House beautifully, but when describing her own life there, her tone takes on a hint of “complaining.” It seemed like she loved everything about her life there but also considered it to be more of a burden than a privilege. She repeatedly says she and family sacrificed a lot for country while living in the White House, which kind of contradicts her otherwise humble personality portrayed in the rest of the book. While is it understandable that as an independent hard-working person, with an ingrained nature of self-sufficiency, she did not enjoy being a pampered princess, but I do wish she had recounted more happy moments from her time in the White House.
Overall: It is a great read. You will get a lot out of reading this inspirational, eloquently written account, with beautiful quotes and amazing stories of a great woman. Barack Obama would have become president anyway based on his own credentials and intelligence, but he made a better one with a woman like Michelle behind him! I have always liked Mrs. Obama, and the book made me admire her all the more.
Here are some other inspiring biographies that you may also like: