Becoming by Michelle Obama
Non-Fiction | Memoir
Published by Crown
Released November 13, 2018
Goodreads | Amazon
I feel the need to preface this review by admitting a bit of bias.
I have a massive crush on Michelle Obama.
When Barack Obama ran for the presidency in 2008, I was in college studying political science. I was surrounded by politics and I staunchly supported Obama. His presidency wasn’t perfect, but there was a great deal of good that happened during his eight years in office.
Michelle stole the spotlight from Barack, at least from where I was standing. I’ve always been immersed in food movements that promote local, healthy, farm-to-table ways of eating. Michelle was such a wonderful supporter of healthy eating as well as helping children to create healthier habits. She is also known for encouraging women and people of color to believe in themselves. For these things, I became a bit of a fangirl.
I tried to put those feelings aside when reading Becoming, although, if anything, learning about her life and her story made me appreciate Michelle Obama even more.
Michelle Obama was born into a normal family in a less-than-perfect part of Chicago. She wasn’t born into wealth. The main aspect of her story that impacted me was how the things that happened to her could happen to anyone. All of her success came from hard work.
However, she regularly recognized all of the people that helped her get to where she is now:
“I’d been lucky to have parents, teachers, and mentors who’d fed me with a consistent, simple message: You matter. As an adult, I wanted to pass those words to a new generation. It was the message I gave my own daughters, who were fortunate to have it reinforced daily by their school and their privileged circumstances, and I was determined to express some version of it to every young person I encountered. I wanted to be the opposite of the guidance counselor I’d had in high school, who’d blithely told me I wasn’t Princeton material.”
Especially when discussing her extended family, she speaks about how policies of discrimination can have lasting effects on people of color and the areas in which they live. When the opportunities of one generation are hampered, the next couple of generations will suffer disadvantages as well. This is a point that is easily forgotten in this day and age, but there are still plenty of communities facing such latent effects of discrimination.
“This particular form of discrimination altered the destinies of generations of African Americans, including many of the men in my family, limiting their income, their opportunity, and, eventually, their aspirations. … These were highly intelligent, able-bodied men who were denied access to stable high-paying jobs, which in turn kept them from being able to buy homes, send their kids to college, or save for retirement.”
Obviously, much of her memoir involves Barack Obama, and the story of how they met and fell in love was heart-warming and eye-opening. I enjoyed the mention of the car Barack owned when they first started dating, which had a hole in the passenger side floor through which Michelle could see pavement. It’s just one more thing that makes the Obamas relatable to the average person.
This entire memoir is an inspiration for people that believe or feel as though they don’t belong. From her childhood on the south side of Chicago to her days as First Lady of the United States of America, she offers candid insights into her life, the life of her family, and how anybody can have the kind of success that she did.