A First Lady has to be somewhat cautious when writing her memoirs because how candid she chooses to be could effect her husband's legacy far into the future. So a balanced approach between being careful and letting one's guard down needs to be struck and Michelle Obama in Becoming (published 2018) has pulled it off very well. Becoming reveals a thoughtful, accomplished woman with a very nice conversational writing style. Michelle has lived an extraordinary life and there is much to be learned in her memoir particularly for young people who are looking for guidance in these troubled times.
Becoming is divided into three parts, Becoming Me about Michelle Obama's childhood growing up in Chicago. Becoming Us about meeting Barack Obama, starting a family and entering into politics and Becoming More about their years in the White House. Michelle's childhood years resonated the most with me and what stands out is that though she grew up in a wotking-class family on the south side of Chicago, Michelle would go on to graduate from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Her brother Craig is also a Princeton graduate with a successful career and family.
Michelle makes no secret in Becoming of how much it matters to children to have a support system around them and she stresses how blessed she has been to have the mentors she has had in her life, colleagues, teachers, aunts, uncles and above all her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson. Her father died at age 55 . He was diagnosed with MS when he was in his 30's but as Michelle tells us he put that diagnosis to the side, never talked about it and was there for his family 100%. Michelle's mother Marian also incredibly supportive and strong and her brother Craig continues to this day to look out for his kid sister.
It was a loving and close family but then again as Michelle and Craig have proven, you can have all the support in the world but you still have to go out and work hard and set a plan for your life. Luck enters into it too and in Becoming, Michelle tells the story of her college roomate Suzanne who was a free spirit as opposed to Michelle who as she describes herself is more of a box checker. But Suzanne died at 26 from cancer. Michelle was devastated and it was a lesson she never forgot about how enjoying the here and now is necessary because you never know.
Part Two, Becoming Us involves Michelle meeting Barack Obama. Michelle had already graduated from Harvard and was working at at a top law firm in Chicago when they hired an intern from Harvard Law School. They asked Michelle if she could be his mentor for the summer. Barack was 3 years older than Michelle but he had taken a break between college and law school to work as a community organizer. Michelle fell for him right away and she was also intrigued:
"I sensed already that he was more at home with the unruliness of the world than I was, more willing to let it all in without distress. I woke one night to find him staring at the ceiling ... he looked very troubled as if he were pondering something deeply personal. Was it our relationship? The loss of his father"?
"Hey, what're you thinking about over there"?
"He turned to look at me, his smile a little sheepish. "Oh", he said, "I was just thinking about income inequality".
That's funny and touching but it's also how you would want a young man who would one day be President to be thinking.
Part Three, Becoming More is about Barack and Michelle's time in the White House and Michelle writes about her role as First Lady, meeting with soldiers and their families at Walter Reed which moved her a great deal and also planting a vegetable garden at the White House and starting a campaign to encourage schools and food corporations to provide more nutritious meals. It continues to be an important cause. Michelle also talks about her daughters Malia and Sasha who along with Barack are the most important people in the world to her. Both Michelle and Barack tried hard in the White House to give their daughters as normal a life as they could but it wasn't easy, the White House being a fish bowl.
I finished the book curious about other First Lady's biographies and also missing the Obamas in the White House.and I am worried about 2024.