"An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. When she was a little girl, Michelle Robinson's world was the South Side of Chicago, where she and her brother, Craig, shared a bedroom in their family's upstairs apartment and played catch in the park, and where her parents, Fraser and Marian Robinson, raised her to be outspoken and unafraid. But life soon took her much further afield, from the halls of Princeton, where she learned for the first time what if felt like to be the only black woman in a room, to the glassy office tower where she worked as a high-powered corporate lawyer--and where, one summer morning, a law student named Barack Obama appeared in her office and upended all her carefully made plans. Here, for the first time, Michelle Obama describes the early years of her marriage as she struggles to balance her work and family with her husband's fast-moving political career. She takes us inside their private debate over whether he should make a run for the presidency and her subsequent role as a popular but oft-criticized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humor, and uncommon candor, she provides a vivid, behind-the-scenes account of her family's history-making launch into the global limelight as well as their life inside the White House over eight momentous years--as she comes to know her country and her country comes to know her. [This book] takes us through modest Iowa kitchens and ballrooms at Buckingham Palace, through moments of heart-stopping grief and profound resilience, bringing us deep into the soul of a singular, groundbreaking figure in history as she strives to live authentically, marshaling her personal strength and voice in service of a set of higher ideals. In telling her story with honesty and boldness, she issues a challenge to the rest of us: Who are we and who do we want to become?"--Jacket.
Obviously not a book for Trump fans. But if you find yourself longing for the good old days of, say 2015, you'll enjoy this memoir.
Writing this review a couple week's later, what particularly sticks with me, was the flabbergasting revelation of the acrimony between the two American political parties, which paralyzed Congress. The political rivalry was so intense, that the good governance of the country lost out to the sentiment that "blocking the Democrat's proposals was more important than approving funding to hire more teachers and first responders in natural disasters". It is a matter of record that the Republican party goal was for Obama to be a 'one-term' president . How utterly abysmal that prioritizing some possible future ascendancy sacrificed support for the common citizenry.
I highly recommend this memoir for the insights into family life in struggling black American households and then later, for 8 years in the White House. The writing flowed beautifully and was so articulate.
- She really didn't want it - the presidency, and its impact on her family.
- She is so, so, so devoted to her daughters.
- She loves Barack.
- Barack is a great guy, and so, so, so devoted to his daughters.
Extraordinary parenting under extraordinary circumstances.
And the other major takeaway is the humility. She gets it from her mother (a great character), who always brushed aside over-glowing compliments on the accomplishments of her two kids, Craig and Michelle, with: they're not special. "The South Side is full of kids like that." Michelle repeats it - thinking of her grade school classmates, "I wasn't any better than them." She was just lucky, lucky to have an advocate in her mother, who yanked her out of a bad classroom; and lucky not to get randomly shot in a drive-by, like kids in her old neighborhood need to fear today.
Quibbles? Maybe Barack comes across as a little TOO perfect here, but, see point three. She is - they are - obviously still in love. She mentions the little "fist bump" she once gave him during some nationally televised appearance, and I remember it - such an intimate little moment.
And hey, maybe he IS perfect. Sure holding up as pretty well, as a president, in hindsight, and in comparison.
My favorite thing about the book was her descriptions of Barack, and her analysis of them as a couple. The two are so different, but with mutual respect were able to pull it off. Barack being the dreamer, the ambitious one, always running late; Michelle with a more conventional outlook, very focused on achievement and organization. It seems that they rubbed off a little on each other, so that Michelle was able to leave corporate law for public service, which was a much better fit for her; and Barack, obviously, benefited from Michelle's solidness.
Obama is refreshingly candid, especially when sharing her initial feelings about her husband’s political aspirations, and the media backlash during the presidential campaign and their time in the White House. With a few notable yet extremely tactful exceptions, she refrains from negative comment on the opposing party and the current administration. She is consistently purposeful yet human; there were several times I choked up and got teary-eyed. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of the Obamas, and am confident they will continue having a positive impact on the country, and perhaps beyond.
The scope and pace of the book was the first thing that I noticed. Roughly the first third of the book focuses on Obama's upbringing, and we don't get around to her time at the White House until after the midway point. This gives the book an especially personal tone.
Obama grew up as a lower-middle-class Chicagoan. This being the case, her professional path was "unswerving," to use her terminology. She went to Harvard Law, and went on a partner-track path at a law firm in Chicago. She didn't allow herself to realize she didn't enjoy this work, and never had, until her late twenties, after meeting Barack while he was an intern at her firm.
Given this conservatism, it is understandable the Obama fails to rise to occasion presented by her historic positioning, as the first black First Lady. Although racism (and occasionally sexism) are a backdrop of the text, they never become anything more than that. Despite her speaking to the misogyny and racism of Trump in the end of the book, even this provocation fails to evoke a strong stance.
Having been friends with the daughter of Jesse Jackson, the 1980's black Democratic candidate for President, and having been married by Reverend Jeremiah Wright—both figures aligned with a radical black power platform—it is unfortunate that the Obama's didn't take up their chance to fight for racial equity in the US. One might counter that they didn't have the political collateral for such a move, but neither did Barack's hallmark legislative package—the Affordable Care Act. Obama continues this legacy of striving for social acceptability over justice in her memoir. She would be the first to admit her substantial concern for the opinions of others. The Obama's made the decision to establish themselves as insiders, a place they're more than happy to disdain.
Another thread in the narrative is Obama's disdain for politics, and her emphasis on mothering. At every step of the way, she resisted Barack's ascent. I'm unsure how to interpret these stances. Although I'm understanding of her disdain for the demands of political life, and the fact that she might feel mothering is her most important vocation, maybe Obama regrets her lack of success of the Obama administration, and justifies these regrets with her alibi that she never wanted such a path in the first place.
In conclusion, the book is alright. I would attribute its extreme popularity to the combination of a Trump-induced nostalgia for more neoliberal times, and to the rise of the Me Too movement. It's worth reading at our present moment in the arc of history, but likely won't endure the test of time.
It does read like a love letter to her husband, which was sweet.
She also talks about being a working mother, being a list-driven, step-by-step sort of person in a chaotic sort of world, and is incredibly honest. As a person who has had a career for a while but has only had a child for two years, I felt like I was getting advice I could really use.
I straight-up love this book. It's great.
I loved reading about her early childhood and seeing a more in depth look at her life before Obama. I have always thought she was smart and poised, and it appears shes a great writer too. She told her story much in the same way she has lived her public life; beautifully. She did not shy away from being honest when needed, and did not try and downplay her successes and talents.
The only thing that kept from giving the memoir 5 stars was the lack of depth that were written about her more current years and the presidency. For the most part it felt more biography then memoir. This happened, then this happened, and this is how I felt about it.
She didn't really let down the walls or write anything that might make her appear vulnerable. There were no, oh my God I never would have known, moments. For that, the narrative dragged at times. I was hoping for a little more. More of her! I wanted to know more about how she truly felt about people, and would have loved the book to focus more on her thoughts, emotions and insight instead of her day to day this is what I did telling.
Overall, however, i think the book only reinforces how amazing a woman she is and how lucky we were to have such a dignified and wonderful first lady.
It feels even more sad now, with the current climate after finishing this knowing that the Obama's are no longer there, working towards something good.
I hope there is so much more of Michelle to come. I hope she and her husband continue to do their part in progressing the country. I've always been a huge fan of hers and always admired her. Her memoir only helps reinforce that!
I liked this book because of its honesty, intelligence, and respect and love for her parents, and older brother, and her humble origins. She shares her personal feelings about many experiences good and bad. She is loyal to her friends and colleagues, optimistic and hopeful, and most importantly a loving, caring daughter, wife, and mother.
Excellent; inspiring and thoughtful.
That was, for me, a pretty provocative opening statement; I generally try to maintain a somewhat neutral facade, though I'll never deny my personal truths. I just don't feel it's necessary to wave them like a flag. But - and this is relevant, so stay with me - my defences are low at the moment and I'm so damned tired of everybody's anger being channeled into tribalism. "Liberals" pointing fingers at "Conservatives" and tearing strips off the whole lot, tarring them all with the same brush, and "Conservatives" ... when they're not tearing a strip off the "Liberals" and tarring them with the same brush, they're actively letting their inner child out, gleefully being petty and sniggering as they throw mud. Bunch of damn fools, the entire dammed lot, and honestly, they all deserve one another.
As I said before, I am conservatively bent; I am not deficit inclined, nor am I inclined to embrace a lot of government in general (though there are exceptions - hello banking industry; you, you aren't to be trusted with so much as a plugged nickel). Neither am I a racist, a bigot, nor an elitist. I don't hate, nor do I deny poor people; their existence or their right to make a better life. Anyone who knows me knows all of this, yet I don't think I'm ever getting the tar out of my hair. I believe in diversity in all things, even diverse opinions. Even the ones I don't like.
Now, this is how I make all that relevant - Michelle Obama has written a book that succeeds, and is brilliant, because she does not fling mud; she does not tar anybody; she writes about her thoughts, her beliefs, her values, her opinions, without ever once throwing judgements on anyone else's. She does not build herself up by tearing down others, and here I think it's important to point out that she's not Suzy Sunshine and there aren't any unicorns flying out her backside. I found what she didn't say to be as provocative as what she does say is not; moments when she chooses her words carefully, and where, in my opinion, she manages to convey that which perhaps she feels she can't say. Though I admit, that might be wishful thinking on my part.
I've always admired President Obama; from the first he struck me as thoughtful, intelligent, and well-balanced with very little ego (or one that thrived on power, anyway), but at the beginning, Michelle was a bit of a non-entity to me. Mostly because I've never gotten into what any First Lady was doing; she's not in office, has no public mandate, and is therefore of little interest to me. But Michelle caught my attention with the organic vegetable garden - an initiative I was thrilled to watch unfold and succeed. I still paid little attention, but every time she appeared on my radar, it was because she was doing something impressive, and doing it with dignity and grace. By the time his second term ended, I was sorry to see them both go, and I was eager to read this book when it came out, to learn more about this woman who has never done anything but impress me.
A little part of my soul died when she stated for the record her complete disinterest in public office, because these are the kind of people I want running my country. NOT because of their politics - I like both of them, but their politics are not entirely mine - but because of the people they are. I don't have to agree with everything my leader does, but I do have to be able to respect him (or her) and their dedication to the process of doing what's best for the people - all the people - of the country. The Obamas set - or reset - the standard for the highest office in the nation, repairing the damage wrought by so many previous administrations. To bring this back to the book - Becoming gives readers an insight into just how deeply invested they both were - but especially Michelle, since this is her story - in making the most of the incredible opportunities they were given to make positive, lasting change for as many people as they could, while keeping their family not just in tact, but healthy, thriving and close.
A note about her narration: I'm not going to gush, because the truth is that it was apparent that she was told to read slowly and exactly off the manuscript, which is fair enough. But I sort of wish she'd have been confident enough to read it in the voice she obviously wrote it in; occasionally that voice would sneak through just enough that I just knew, had she been able to be totally herself, it would have kicked the narration up a notch into absolute perfection. But that's not a criticism - she did a phenomenal job and for anyone interested in this book who can do audiobooks, I'd highly recommend it, as I think it adds depth to hear her tell her own story.
The position of FLOTUS is a difficult one to fulfill as there is no job description that comes with this title, no salary, no official guidelines. A president's wife is expected NOT to meddle in policy making and in fact to stay out of politics altogether. But Michelle had no intention of simply being a smiling presence on a stage behind her husband. Educated at Princeton and Harvard, having worked as a corporate lawyer and then moving on to high level positions in government and non profit organizations, specifically to enable mentoring and helping young people from less advantaged background to fulfill their potential, she wanted to continue helping young people and children from the White House too. She talks about her programs to help combat the obesity crisis, which involved reaching out to major corporations so they would reduce fat, salt and sugar contents, to deliver healthier school lunch options, to get major food outlet Walmart to lower produce prices and about creating a vegetable garden at the White House itself, which other than being a great source for photo ops for the media and showing Michelle in casual wear surrounded by children, also produced vast amounts of produce they could donate to a homeless shelter.
She also used her visibility and the constant demand for her to be a speaker to go to schools in underprivileged neighbourhoods to tell her own story and encourage children to give their all, because she said, as a child she had been given so much encouragement from her own mother and family and teachers, which made all the difference in her own success in her studies, because growing up the Southside of Chicago might have led her down a very different path but for all the positive feedback she was given. She knew children of all colours in multicultural neighbourhoods would feel special being given a pep talk (and often a big hug) by someone they admired such as herself, being the first black First Lady, who had started from humble origins just like they did. The recurring theme in the book was that of family, of their family, and of the importance of children and of giving them hope and tools for the future, and it was clear that these were things that were close to Michelle's heart and of deepest importance to her. Fun anecdotes abounded, a couple about meeting Queen Elizabeth, about intimate moments with Barack, many about interactions with their security detail and the difficult and sometimes nearly impossible task of trying to have a "normal" life while being the First Family living in the White House. She spoke candidly about how she felt about campaigning for her husband and of politics in general, one thing that emerged was that she loved interacting with people but was deeply hurt by the negative bias the Republicans and the media deliberately put forward to the public. Her message may be "When they go low, we go high" which doesn't prevent her from having feelings, just like anybody else and she got more than her fair share of abuse and unfair criticism.
I found this to be a bittersweet book. Michelle shares how she feels about the results of the 2016 elections, and reading it now in 2019, while that great hateful misogynistic autocratic racist divisive selfish childish reality show host abuses power on a daily basis and is intent on further diminishing the quality of life for the masses to build a monument to his boundless ego has a surreal effect—that the Obamas, people with such impeccable personal ethics and high moral standards and dedication for public service could be followed by such a shameful and cruel act is...
I want to keep believing in humanity too, though have been finding this difficult in the last few years. It pains me daily to think how some of the same people who voted for Obama were then able to turn around and vote for that poor excuse for a human being who makes bullying a raison d’être. Simply put, America went from a soulfull to a souless leader. That Michelle is still able to deliver a message of hope and persistence despite this cruel setback which affects the world on a global scale gives us all something to hold on to. Michelle gives credence to the saying that behind every great man is a great woman, and hearing her story reinforced my belief in this family as truly decent human beings. It makes me feel we are all blessed to have the Obamas, whether they be in the White House or not. They remind us there is decency in this world, that there will always be soulful people working towards the greater good.
The courtship of their endearing relationship and dedication to maintaining it, along with the parenting of their daughters is inspiring to the utmost level. The unending desire to help, to remedy, to fight for a broader good, from them both, is so incredible in a me-me-me society. The divulging of intimate events in their lives is more than expected and welcome in times of dishonest secrecy.
I was amazed at all that went on in the White House and how restrictive their roles were. I was also shocked that things like their food, clothing, even toilet paper were bought with their own money. Making humor out of constant attention from everyone and the ever-present secret service must have been daunting. How the couldn't even enjoy a single dinner out without disrupting an entire city.
There is just so much to this book that gives us a broader respect and admiration for this bigger than life couple. Oh how I miss them representing our country.
Michelle Obama shares her life, from the love and support of her extensive family on the Southside of Chicago
through her meeting as advisor to Barack Obama, their marriage and the birth of their children and on into
the eight years with The President and her children in The White House.
With deep insight and honesty, she sets forward the good, the bad, the hurt, the joy, the triumphs, and the pain.
It would have been welcome if one of the dogs had been a Rescue, if
People who enjoy autobiographies that don’t feel overly edited or ghost written.
In a nutshell:
Former (sob) First Lady Michelle Obama tells her story, from early childhood through her departure from the White House.
“This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the my-isn’t-that-impressive path — and keep you there for a long time.”
“…because having been brought up in a family where everyone always showed up, I could be extra let down when someone didn’t show.”
“As the only African American First Lady to set foot in the White House I was ‘other’ almost by default. If there was a presumed grace assigned to my white predecessors, I knew it wasn’t likely to be the same for me.”
Why I chose it:
I mean, duh. It’s Michelle Obama. How could I not?
I love the fact that Obama doesn’t become First Lady of the U.S. until page 282 in a 426 page book. She was only First Lady for eight years, but I can see a lesser publishing house or editor wanting to really focus on those eight years. In fact, given what was kept in and what was left out, I can see that this could EASILY have been a two-book volume. Instead, it is a true auto-biography that gives us real insight into who Michelle Robinson is, and how her life became entwined with our 44th President.
Obama is a great writer. I found her stories evocative, and interesting. I could picture the apartment she grew up in, her law office, her family. And while fairly early on her future husband enters the picture, the focus is still on her and how she experienced all these adventures. He’s almost a minor character; I feel like I get more of a sense of her children than her husband. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing — he tells his story, and has told his story, many times. This is about HER and how she felt about the things she has experienced as a Black woman filling a role that no Black woman has filled before.
It was hard to read again about some of the political things — reading asshole Mitch McConnell’s offensive and frankly anti-American comments, and being reminded of how aggressively Republicans fought to harm so many people in the US by blocking any sort of progress, just pissed me off even more than my regularly daily pissed-offedness thanks to the current President. But it was fascinating to learn a bit more about how the White House works, and how their family adjusted to that life.
I found myself relating to her in some ways - she is a planner, and super organized, and had a good home life growing up. I related hard to the quote I included up top, about staying on a path because one is worried about what other’s might think. I spent most of my youth through the end of college thinking I was going to be a lawyer, and it wasn’t until the summer before I was supposed to enroll at UCLA Law that I got the courage to tell my folks I didn’t want to do that. I had to figure everything out from scratch, and it terrified me. And I did another form of that again a year ago, when I moved overseas and left my career behind. For some of us its hard to not care what other people think, and it was refreshing to see someone be so honest about that.
There were definitely quite a few things that were either edited out or just never written. There is virtually nothing in there about her time in law school, which I found odd. But there is a lot about her time in college, so perhaps the two experiences weren’t different enough to be considered compelling reading? There is also not a ton in the White House, nor a lot about the second Presidential campaign. It’s a good read, but some of it does feel a bit ‘wait, you’re not even going to mention that?’, which is what kept me from giving it the full five stars.
I started this book in January and found myself only reading it in spurts, primarily because I tend to read on the go, and this book is HUGE. It was just too heavy to cart back and forth. But I sucked it up and read the back half in two days. So it’s not a slow read, or a dense read, but it’s not a book you can stick in a small purse and bring with you on the bus.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Keep it AND Pass to a Friend