Thursday, January 3, 2019

"Becoming" by Michelle Obama

Former First Lady Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," lives up to the hype and is well worth a read. It's well-written, frank, thoughtful, sometimes blunt and sometimes funny.

The book is divided into sections on the theme of "Becoming" -- "Becoming Me," "Becoming Us" and "Becoming More."  In "Becoming Me," Michelle describes her upbringing in a very ordinary, tight-knit, working class black family.  This is the section I found the most interesting, I think. Michelle is just a few years younger than me (her husband is eight months younger than me), so we grew up in a similar time frame with similar historical & cultural references -- although, admittedly, there are some big differences between growing up black on the South Side of Chicago and the very white, small Canadian Prairie towns where I grew up.

Throughout her life, and especially her youth, Michelle  benefited from the support & encouragement of caring adults & mentors, including her great-aunt who lived downstairs & gave her piano lessons; her parents, who taught her the value of hard work, persistence and education (her mother had her moved out of an unruly classroom with an ineffective teacher, which she pinpoints as a key moment in her life);  and a number of mentors who broadened her horizons and provided her with valuable career advice and work opportunities. Both she & her brother wound up graduating from Princeton (and she later earned a degree from Harvard Law School, a few years earlier than her future husband). 

In "Becoming Us," she describes how she met and eventually married Barack Obama and built a family with him. As most of us in this community have heard by now, her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, and they used IVF to conceive both of their daughters. (I wrote about my shock of recognition when I realized Malia Obama is the same age as my Katie would have been, here -- not knowing then that Malia was an IVF baby.)  The book also discloses the tensions in the Obama marriage -- Barack, the dreamer, chased a career in politics, while practical Michelle tried to hold down the fort at home -- and how they were resolved through counselling.

"Becoming More" describes the Obamas' eight years in the White House -- the first black family to occupy a house that was (as she once noted in a speech) built by slaves. Besides some fun & fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbits about life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, she touches on some of the key moments of her husband's presidency, her efforts to give Malia & Sasha an upbringing that was as "normal" as possible, and her own campaign to reduce childhood obesity rates -- which included the launch of a White House garden, which clearly was and is a source of enormous pride for her.

I learned so much about Michelle & her family in these pages -- and yet she leaves me wanting to know more. I guess that's a good thing, as well as a (minor) sticking point -- and of course, it's her prerogative to disclose as much or as little detail as she chooses.  (Just don't expect to hear more from her as a political candidate... she makes it very clear that is NOT going to happen, lol.)

I gave it five stars on Goodreads.

This was book #26 of 27 that I read in 2018. When I finished it, I had surpassed my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books by 2 books, or 108%!  :)


  1. I read this and loved it...but it also made me so sad, because of the comparison with our current White House occupants. Plus I can identify with a lot of her stories, because I grew up in Chicago too.

  2. Dear Loribeth, many thanks for this review! It's good to know a little bit more about this book, as I have to admit that I'm far from reading as much as you are. I wish you a Happy New Year with a lot of further readings :) Léa

  3. You and Mel keep my pile o' books growing growing growing...thanks for this review!

  4. This one is on my list. Thanks for the review - now I'm really looking forward to reading it!

  5. I'm looking forward to reading! I can hardly believe I haven't read it yet! :-/

  6. It's on my list. Waiting for my library to get it as an e-book! Thanks for the review.