Becoming by Michelle Obama was another one of my charity shop finds. I hardly knew who Michelle Obama "really" was apart from being First Lady for eight years. Barack became president when I was seventeen or eighteen years old. Apart from being happy that they entered the White House, I didn't really learn about who they were. So, reading this memoir was my opportunity to learn who Michelle was before (during, and after) the presidency and get a glimpse of what it is like living in the White House.
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"In sharing my story, I hope to create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why. [...] For every door that's been opened to me, I've tried to open my door to others." (p. 421)
The first few chapters of Becoming gave me a newfound respect for both Michelle and Barack Obama. Mrs Obama wrote Becoming beautifully. It is almost as if you are in a room with her and she is casually sharing her life story. Michelle's memoir is honest and, at times, heartbreaking (e.g., the Sandy Lane School shooting). She shares everything, from the past to the present. Happy and sad. From marital frustrations, political frustrations, and their inability to get pregnant to her doubts about whether a black person would ever get elected president.
"It was maybe then that I felt a first flicker of resentment involving politics and Barack's unshakable commitment to the work." (p. 189)
I read about their lower to middle-class upbringing, and how the Obamas' dedication to education transformed their lives (and, in the end, the lives of millions of Americans) for the better. Michelle grew up in Chicago. She had to study hard, and she got into a great university with the support of her ever-positive family. It was not easy, and the road to success was very bumpy. As is being married to a person who will give his all to better the community, which is something you can both admire and loathe at the same time and don't forget the struggles of raising children in the White House.
"Throughout the campaign, I'd asked myself over and over whether America was really ready to elect a Black president, whether the country was in a strong enough place to see beyond race and move past prejudice." (p. 275)
I know it is difficult to make changes when one is president because many people have to sign off on projects so, unfortunately, lots of good ideas get shot down and not every president can affect the change they promise the American people during campaigns. Frustrations galore! Michelle, as First Lady, was also bound by many restrictions. But she made her time in the White House count.
Overall, an inspiring story – an eye-opener for sure. It's no wonder that Becoming was one of Oprah's book club picks. I think that Becoming is a must-read for anyone. It shows that when you stay true to your beliefs, work hard, and remain patient, the sky is the limit. This memoir also shows the unfavourable side of politics and that the world has a long way to go before we can truly say we are all equal.