Becoming, by Michelle Obama

In a nutshell, Becoming is a remarkable and inspirational story of an extraordinary woman. The book is a coming-of-age story; a love story of a pair of opposites; and a political saga by a woman who was skeptical, if not downright scornful of politics, but who became one of the most popular first ladies in American history.  

In telling her story, Michelle takes readers by the hand on an intimate tour of everyday African-American life and ambition, while recounting her rise from modest origins to the closest America has to nobility. Gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny, she invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her from her childhood to the White House.

I particularly liked the titles of the three sections of the book. The first third (Becoming Me), covers her childhood, growing up in lower middle class in southside Chicago, with parents who made their high expectations clear. Despite her family’s challenges and her ‘female blackness’, she managed to go to Princeton, then Harvard Law, and then to work at a prestigious law firm where she met Barack, fell for him and his wanderlust, while Barack was grounded by her traditionalism. In the second section (Becoming Us), she covers their marriage, marriage counseling, raising two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare, winning the 2008 Iowa caucuses, and making it to the White House. But she never takes any of it for granted. On the contrary, her tone is one of wonderment as to how this all happened. Over and over again, from high school to the White House, she asks, “Am I good enough?”

She closes the last third of the book (Becoming More), talking about the stress of being in the spotlight, her desire to make an impact as First Lady, and the opportunity to offer her vision.  She knew that she would be held to a different standard, her every gesture scrutinized. Her story is not full of Washington gossip and political score-settling, though she does lay bare her contempt for Trump, who she believes put her family’s safety at risk with his false birther conspiracy theory.

Becomingis a warm, wise, revelatory and intimate, deeply personal coming-of-age story of a strong-minded girl who grew up to become one of the most powerful and influential black women in America. Her memoir sold more than 1.4 million copies in its first week and quickly became the best-selling book of the year. Through it all, her outlook is optimistic, her voice clear, witty, candid and insightful. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She is gifted in her ability to express her emotions with meticulous attention to details, writing with tremendous insight and sensitivity from beginning to end. I loved it.

— Kenn Johnson

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