In one word… I am impressed. Becoming, by Michelle Obama. What dignity, what elegance. What a lady. That is the first thing that comes to my mind. Impressed. Then inspired. Then hopeful. It’s a true memoir, not an agenda, no justifications, not much politics.
I bought the book with the hardback cover. It is simple. It is beautiful. She looks lovely. Graceful yet open with an honest smile.
The print is easy to read. The language is simple, style is conversational as if we are sitting face to face having a coffee and talking.
I loved the layout of the book. It is divided into three parts. Becoming me, Becoming us, Becoming more. The title – Becoming – is very apt. In the Preface itself, she says its best-suited because we are always growing, evolving, becoming more and that is the whole point of life. Becoming is a continuous process and not a finite one.
1. In the first part – Becoming me – she talks of her childhood, spent in the South side of Chicago. She comes from a working-class family. Her father did a shift job in the water plant of Chicago. Her mother stayed at home to raise her brother and her. Her mom sewed all her clothes. Hardly went to the hairdresser to get her hair done. Did her nails herself. Michelle Obama talks about all of this in a simple, straightforward way. She was driven from childhood. she knew she had to work hard, get good grades. She knew that a good education was her only way up.
She talks about punching a bully, she talks of smoking pot in her younger days. It is an honest, no holds barred conversation.
Her parents had a strong marriage, they were a big influence on her. Her dad, despite suffering from MS, never quit his work. On page 47, she talks about her mom’s philosophy while raising them. “I’m not raising babies, I’m raising adults.” This really stayed with me. I am a mother too and I completely resonated with this. I plan on making it a part of my parenting style from now on.
Her determination again shows when the school counsellor tells her “you are not Princeton material.” She goes on to prove her wrong.
2. In the second part – Becoming Us – she talks of Barack, how they met, how they fell in love and their marriage. All throughout I could relate to her as a girlfriend, then as a wife. The way she describes Barack Obama clearly shows the love they have for each other, it is palpable. She honestly shares the longing, the love that she felt for him when he was not around. When she describes his proposal for marriage, I could feel my eyes tearing up.
She talks about her struggle of choosing career versus raising her two kids. How she took a part-time job, but it left her unfulfilled. I could again personally resonate as I have done the same in my own personal life -reduced my work, cut back on my career and work to give more time to my children.
On page 112-113 she talks of Barack being a leftie. This particular fact made me very happy as I am a left-handed person too. I still harbour a grin on my face as I write this part of the review.
At one point she speaks of their motto…. “when they go low, we go high.” Again shows their personal values as a couple, as a family. This too has stayed with me. I personally plan to follow it.
3. In this part – Becoming More – she talks of life in the White House after they win the election. When she talks about her kids being her top priority, as a mother I could relate. We all want to protect our kids from prying eyes, scandals, judgments. This sharing humanized her, normalized her in some way. Apart from being FLOTUS, she is also a mom. Just like me.
She talks of President Trump’s election after Barack’s term is over. On the election day itself, you could see the demographics changing. She talks about how at the swearing-in ceremony, there was less diversity, more white and more male presence. In this section, you realise how painful it must have been for them, to see that whatever they worked for, stood for, created, throughout their lives, was changing, in front of their eyes. Everything they worked so hard to achieve – diversity, reduce racial biases, equal respect and opportunity to people of color and minorities – were now being cast aside. Once again, you can see their grace, dignity, and composure through it all.
This section is more restrained, not as open as Becoming Me. She hasn’t really bared her heart out which is completely understandable as she is still in the public eye.
She still ends with hope in her heart and an optimistic vision for a better world.
I loved this book and highly recommend it.