"The Light We Carry" is not so much a memoir -- although Obama tells lots of personal stories from various stages of her life to illustrate her points -- as it is a self-help volume of advice and inspiration. Obama reflects on the changing, turbulent times we live in -- as well as the uncertain times she grew up in -- and how she gets through with a personal "tool kit" of habits, practices, attitudes and beliefs.
"...I do believe that there's value in learning to identify the habits that keep us centered and grounded versus those that trigger anxiety or feed our insecurities," Obama writes (page 16). "My hope is that you'll find things here to draw from -- selecting what's useful, discarding what's not -- as you identify, collect, and refine your own essential set of tools."
Among the topics she discusses:
- the power of small things and small victories (Obama details how learning to knit helped keep her grounded during the covid pandemic),
- dealing with fear and anxiety,
- "starting kind" (including kindness towards ourselves),
- feeling seen -- visibility and invisibility, belonging, and dealing with difference,
- "my kitchen table" -- the importance of friendships, and face-to-face connection,
- partnering well (including some interesting insights into her marriage),
- "tried and true maxims" from Michelle's mom, Marian Robinson,
- vulnerability, authenticity and sharing our whole selves,
- "the armor we wear": being prepared and adaptable, and balancing toughness with vulnerability,
- "going high" -- what does it mean?
There's nothing in here that's really original or profound or earth-shattering -- but nevertheless, it's well-synthesized, sound, practical, timely advice and encouragement -- well written and delivered in a warm, personal and ultimately optimistic voice. Overall, this is a highly relevant book for the times we're living in, and I very much enjoyed it.
5 stars on Goodreads.
This was Book #46 read to date in 2022 (and Book #5 finished in November), bringing me to 102% of my 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 45 books! I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 6 books ahead of schedule. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2022 tagged as "2022 books."
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ALI notes: Obama discussed her personal experiences with loss and infertility in "Becoming." It comes up again here, but mostly just in passing. Still, so much of what she had to say -- particularly her reflections on difference and otherness -- seemed highly relevant and relatable for those of us living with loss, infertility and/or childlessness, or who feel "different" or "othered" because of how we managed to build our families (or not).
On the downside, I will admit I winced a little -- and felt a pang of envy -- in the chapter about friendships, in which Obama says "I was bolstered by my friends, especially those whose kids liked to play with mine... Among us, the message was always I got you, I'll be there." (page 123) Those of us without kids, of course, are not automatically plugged into those "mom networks," and have to work harder to find, make and keep meaningful friendships.
Not related to the book, but to Michelle Obama: I was recently adding/changing some tags and making some fixes to some old posts, and stumbled on this post from 2009, about the rumours that the then-First Lady -- 45 years old at the time -- was pregnant (!).
It's interesting to revisit this now in 2022 -- especially in the recent wake of Jennifer Aniston's interview with Allure magazine, where she revealed she underwent unsuccessful IVF treatment while under the most intensely public "bump watch" imaginable. We now know, from Obama's memoir, "Becoming," that she had a miscarriage and wound up using IVF to conceive both Malia & Sasha. How hurtful/annoying/plain old eye-rolling those pregnancy rumours must have been to her!