Author: Michelle Obama
BECHDEL TEST: Not applicable, since this is a memoir.
My mum actually got me Michelle Obama’s book for Christmas last year, my sister had read it and obviously I was desperate to read it because I love Michelle Obama, I think she’s such an inspiring woman and I really wanted to read her story in her own words. I’m not usually a big reader of non-fiction, in fact the last memoir I read was Pippa Funnell, I think a good 10 years ago, so I was a little bit nervous going in but I shouldn’t have been, I absolutely loved this book! Michelle is refreshingly honest, and she writes in a way that makes it feel like she’s talking to you (I can definitely understand all the audio recommendations for this, I read it in physical format, but the way she writes definitely lends itself to that medium) and I learned so much. I realised that whilst I admired Michelle Obama for being an intelligent, hardworking woman, I didn’t really know all that much about her life, at least not before she became First Lady, so it was wonderful to get to learn more about her, in her own words. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.
Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.
This book was split into three different parts, plus a preface and an epilogue, and there were different chapters within each part, with the middle section being by far the longest and the last section the shortest. Usually I would complain about lengthy chapters, and there were quite a lot of lengthy chapters here, but Michelle writes in such a way that I never felt bored when I was reading, which was great. I liked the different sections as well, you get to follow Michelle at each stage of her life so far, through childhood and teenagehood, her college years & early years with Barack & then through her life as First Lady.
I loved Michelle’s writing style, she was refreshingly candid and it felt like sitting down with a friend for a chat, I looked forward to reading it every night because I knew I had another chapter of Michelle’s beautifully honest words to look forward to. It’s funny when needs be, emotional when needs be and filled with love for her friends and family.
Obviously learning about her early life and family was a completely new thing for me, I’m not American and whilst you glean certain things from news articles, basic facts like where she grew up and went to college, there was a lot I didn’t know. I had no idea she had an older brother, or that her father had MS and the love for her family and their influence on her life completely came alive off the page so I really loved those parts.
She’s wonderfully candid about being black and a woman in America and it’s great to read about, because I might have experienced the things that come along with being a woman, but I’m obviously a privileged, young, white woman and it was very eye opening to read about some of the things Michelle experienced due to her race because they are things I’ve never had to experience and she talks about them in such an eloquent and candid way. There’s nothing that she shies away from talking about in this book, she lays everything out on the table and I really engaged with that.
I also loved the inclusion of photos, there’s a huge spread of them just over halfway through the book, and I kept flipping back and forth to them whilst I was reading so I could see the photos of what she was talking about.
A consistent thing she talks about through the book is her feelings of “Am I good enough?” which she comes back to through her life and I found that very relatable, because I’ve definitely had feelings of that throughout my life as well.
Reading about all the women who inspired her and how much her female friends mean to her was wonderful as well, the women in her life clearly mean so much to her and have been such inspirations and I love seeing that woman I admire also have women in their life who are that for them.
Obviously she talks a lot about her and Barack’s relationship in the book, which I loved. She’s not afraid to poke a bit of fun at her husband, the first chapter where she meets him starts with the fact that he was late on the day they first met, and I loved little details like that, as Michelle said in one of her later chapters when she says she talked about Barack leaving his socks lying around their apartment, it makes him seem less like this unattainable president and more like a regular guy. It’s so clear though that she loves and admires him so much and the little bits of her playfully jibing him made that even more clear to me, because it’s something me and my friends do to each other quite a lot! I particularly loved her recollection of his proposal to her, it was the cutest darn thing!
The parts about her not being sure of what she wanted to do with her life and struggling between wanting to do good and keeping on the high paying career track, really hit home for me, reading it at this particular time. It’s not so much that I necessarily want a high paying career (Journalism is not known for pulling in the big bucks!) but that I’m coming to the end of Uni and I’m not really sure about what I want to do next, where I want to go, what I want to do, so knowing that someone like Michelle Obama also struggled with that makes me feel a whole lot better!
As well as Michelle’s lovely wit, there’s a great deal of emotion in her memoir as well, she speaks of her friend Suzanne dying, of her father’s death and of a miscarriage she experienced, all with such honesty but also such genuine emotion, I was definitely close to tears in several of those parts.
Her love for her kids just leaps off the page, it’s so clear how much they mean to her and it was great to read about how she balanced her work and her family without sacrificing her love for one or the other.
Even when she was covering events I was more familiar with, like the presidential campaign, although I’ll be honest, I remember the re-election campaign far better than the initial campaign, I was 12 when Barack Obama first ran for president and though I definitely remember the buzz of him being elected President and seeing it on the news and everything, I don’t really remember the campaign as much, since at that time, I wasn’t really all that interested in politics. She’s very candid about how she feels about the political world, and firmly puts to rest all of the presidential rumours in the epilogue of this book. I had no idea how involved she was in the initial presidential campaign & how much flack she took from the press both prior to being First Lady and when she was in office.
It was so interesting to read about the transition, because it’s something I’ve always wondered about, obviously you have two months between getting elected and actually moving into the White House and Michelle shed a lot of light for me about what actually goes on during that period!
I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy the last part as much, since it was talking about her time as First Lady and of all the parts of the book, that was what I was most familiar with, but I needn’t have worried because honestly I didn’t really know that much about all the initiatives she implemented whilst in the White House and how much she did for children (girls’ education especially) and military families. It’s clear how much she cares about all of her causes and I loved seeing how proud she was of the work she did.
I will say my only little gripe was that some of the later chapters skipped through time quite quickly so I did sometimes find it a little difficult to follow where exactly she was in the course of Obama’s presidency.
I loved seeing her talk about things I remembered happening, Obama singing Amazing Grace at the Charleston service, marriage equality going through, the Carpool Karaoke she did and of course, the Hamilton performances at the White House.
The shade she throws at Trump is just awesome, she’s clearly no fan of the man (but let’s be honest who is), but the way she talks about being devastated at the result and still ensuring that they made the transition for the Trumps as seamless as possible is a true testament to how classy a lady Michelle Obama is.
I’ve not much experience with memoirs but after this one I’m definitely going to be seeking out more, it was such a fun a read and actually a refreshing break from fiction? I love my fiction books of course I do, but I definitely think I’m going to be breaking them up with more non-fiction from now on.
My Rating: 5/5 (March has been an AMAZING reading month guys, I can’t want to talk about it in my wrap up!)
My next review will probably be of Joan He’s Descendant of The Crane, as I’ve only got a few chapters left of that.