Author: Michelle Obama
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group (North America); Viking Press (Commonwealth)
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
The former first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, aptly recalls her life story by going down memory lane in her memoir, Becoming. Her warmth and wit shines through each page of the book as she shows us different scenarios of her life from being a sharp-witted child, to being a confused teenager, to finding herself, to finding love, to the sacrifices she had to make, and to becoming the iconic woman she is today.
Coming from a small nuclear family in the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, with a large extension of relatives, she learns the need for knitness among family members at a young age. In as much as she and her great aunt got on each other’s nerves, especially with the piano lessons, they both shared and understood what familial bond was all about.
Becoming has frequent comical moments, sometimes indignant or enraged, and when Michelle describes her father’s early death from multiple sclerosis and her best friend’s death from cancer, the raw emotion can be felt.
As a teenager, she got very interested in the strength and empowerment of black youths, but was also a teenager who enjoyed normal teenage activities. She recalls her teenage friendship with Jesse Jackson’s daughter, Santita. She says they were all “for strengthening the character of black youth across America, but we also needed rather desperately to get to the shopping mall before the K-Swiss sneaker sale ended.”
Michelle and her husband, Barack, are like opposite forces that complement each other– like yin and yang, as she says. As Barack is fascinated with politics and worships solitude, Michelle detests politics and craves company. The major challenges in their marriage, as recorded by Michelle, were characterized by the strain of politics on their family and the fact that Barack enjoyed his solitude and was more productive when alone. She is one who thinks far and plans into the future whereas he is, as she describes him, “an improvisational zigzag through disparate worlds”.
As one hailing from Kenya, Hawaii, and Kansas with an Arabic middle name, Barack Obama can be seen as a nationally ambivalent individual. He was ridiculed and rumored to have formed secret allies with terrorists because of his hard-to-pin-down background. But he didn’t let the negative comments affect him much, at least not at much as it affected his wife. In as much as she didn’t like politics, she knew how much this could ruin his chances of being something he truly wanted. She had always felt like a sort of misfit, so she understood what it meant when there was no acceptance. This feeling was more pronounced when she was at Princeton. According to her, the feeling was akin to “poppy seeds in a bowl of rice”.
Michelle has always funny ways of describing her future husband. At their Chicago law firm, where they first met, she appraises him as an “exotic geek”, then as a “unicorn”. He also smokes, which actually disgusts her, but she could let that slide since he has a “noble heart” and an intelligent mind.
Barack wrote thoughtful letters to her while they courted, although she insisted on phone calls. But once they got married, his political commitments made it hard for him to keep up with his family. She says it turned him into a “human blur, a pixelated version of the guy I knew.” He isn’t even there when she tries to get pregnant. She angrily stabs syringes into her thighs during a course of in-vitro fertilization.
Being the free-spirited type, she complains about “the new heaviness” that the presidency brought with it, symbolised by a limousine that is “a seven-ton tank disguised as a luxury vehicle, tricked out with hidden tear-gas cannons, rupture-proof tyres, and a sealed ventilation system”. this symbolism is her lightness of being her karaoke with James Corden, and informality that made her ignore protocol and give the Queen a consoling hug when first met.
As First Lady, Michelle decided she didn’t want to be idle occupying the position and therefore, devoted herself to planting a vegetable garden in the White House grounds. This move was also to educate obese Americans about healthy eating and living.
Michelle adores her young daughters because of their childish behaviour towards their father’s presidency. They often asked during the campaign in 2008, “is he president yet?” as if they were on their way to Disneyland for the first time and wanted to know if they were there yet –“are we there yet?”
Michelle makes her readers see who she is as a family and career woman. Her strength and passion in managing the two roles, and being honest enough to eventually focus on the most important is a motivation to young women, not only in America, but all over the world.
After leaving the White House, there’s an air of freedom about her. She records a scene where she toasts bread with butter and goes outside to munch on it –something she could never have done in the White House. Now, she didn’t have to think much about politics, just about the yummy crusty pounds of calories going into her mouth.
Grab a gourd of palm wine, a copy of Becoming by Michelle Obama, and some read-away vibes! Just make sure not to get tipsy while sashaying the pages of this beautiful memoir. LOL
About The Reviewer
Ore Oroge is a poet, writer, avid reader, freelance editor and proofreader. She’s the author of the poetry book, To Be Human. As a budding psychologist, she’s passionate about the human nature and works towards helping people find their true selves. She enjoys talking on psychological issues and aspires to be a public speaker in the field. When she’s not writing, she’s vibing to indie folk or any other good music, learning languages, reading, drawing abstract images, socializing with like minds, or eating chocolate.