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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Review: Becoming Michelle Obama

New York Times Best Seller doesn’t disappoint

Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” has remained at the top of bestseller lists since its publication in November of 2018. It’s currently number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list for nonfiction books.

Michelle Obama provides an in-depth look into her life, exploring her upbringing in Chicago, her career, her relationship with Barack Obama and finally her years living in the White House as First Lady.

Growing up, Obama lived in Chicago’s South Side with her mother, father and brother, in a one-bedroom apartment, where the bottom floor was occupied by her great aunt. Obama reveals that despite her family’s low socioeconomic standing and the fact that her parents worked full-time jobs, Obama and her brother had childhoods filled with love and mentors who fueled their ambitions.

Obama characterizes herself as a go-getter. As a young adult, she attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School and worked endless hours to achieve her position practicing corporate law in Chicago. It was there  she met Barack Obama, a passionate man with big dreams of his own.

Michelle and Barack Obama’s relationship is inspiring. They have maintained their love while braving long periods of separation due to school or work and managed to balance their demanding careers with the duties of marriage and parenthood. Left feeling unfulfilled by corporate law, Obama was motivated to “swerve” by her husband, to take a leap of faith and follow her heart, figuring out the rest along the way.

This is one of many messages or words of wisdom that Obama ingrains in her memoir. Following this advice, Obama leaves her comfortable position in corporate law to pursue a career in public service, with the goal of helping underprivileged communities like the one she grew up in.

“It was one thing to get yourself out of a stuck place, I realized,” Obama wrote. “It was another thing entirely to try and get the place itself unstuck.”
Obama details the joys of motherhood as well as its difficulties, a previously unseen glance into the interiority of the Obama family. With a refreshing vulnerability, she discusses the physical and emotional strain of her miscarriage and IVF treatments. Her efforts to push forward in her career and also be a caring, present mother is a familiar story — her relatability and candor helped her win the hearts of Americans everywhere. Later, she details her concerns for the safety of her children as they become recognized faces nationwide.

The memoir picks up speed with Barack Obama’s political career. Obama always has and will always hate politics, admitting that she resisted her husband’s decision to become involved.

“Coexisting with Barack’s strong sense of purpose — sleeping in the same bed with it, sitting at the breakfast table with it — was something to which I had to adjust,” she wrote.

While interesting, the telling of Barack Obama’s run for president delved into lengthy descriptions of the campaign, which slowed down the story. These sections read more like a textbook, though they may be appreciated by those intrigued with the inner workings of politics.

Obama writes with clarity of her past and present, discussing her role as First Lady and its implications. She redefined the role by focusing her attention on alleviating poverty, improving education and emphasizing habits of healthy living. She analyzes the evolution of her character in the face of adversity, writing of demoralizing racial comments and instances of hatred that accompany being married to the first black President of the United States. She writes of the intense pressure to represent her husband and family and watch every little thing she says, does and wears.

In “Becoming,” Obama doesn’t hold back. Her voice is honest and sometimes biting. She is unafraid to criticize President Trump and the tactics he used in attempts to undermine the integrity of the Obamas.

Overall, “Becoming” is well-written and its tone is inspirational. So far receiving positive reviews on Goodreads and other rating sites, the memoir continues to top the charts worldwide as a best seller. Michelle Obama has extended her book tour to include more stops in both the United States and abroad.

“Becoming” is available in most bookstores and on Amazon. An audiobook version read by Michelle Obama is also available for purchase through Audible.

Written by: Cheyenne Wiseman — arts@theaggie.org


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