‘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 it 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-critized figure during his campaign. Narrating with grace, good humour, 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.
Becoming 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?’ – book blurb
Becoming is broken up into three different sections, titled ‘Becoming me’, ‘Becoming Us’, and ‘Becoming More’. ‘Becoming Me’ details her early life, through her childhood and schooling, through college and the beginning of her law career, on to meeting her husband, Barack Obama.
‘Becoming Us’ tells us about their early married life, their struggles entering into parenthood, and the beginnings of Barack’s political career and campaigns for Senate and presidency.
‘Becoming More’ encompasses their lives as President and First Lady, and trying to find their feet as two of the most recognizable and influential people in the world. It ends just as Barack’s second term ends, and they have to leave the White House.
What I Liked
-The conversational writing style – I’ve read some autobiographies that are quite formally written, and you don’t get a proper feel for the writer. Becoming feels like a conversation, like the story is exactly how Michelle Obama would tell it if she was standing in front of you speaking.
-Michelle herself comes across extremely well. I already liked her from what I had seen of her in the media, but reading her words, she comes across as really down to earth and ordinary. I also loved how she spoke about her ambition, and her achievements – she’s so matter-of-fact and unapologetic, which is really refreshing. She expects so much of herself, and is her own biggest advocate, but worst-critic, and she is so honest about this in her writing.
-The three separate sections make it easy to read, the format works really well. Each section is just long enough too, interesting but not boring.
-It’s honest. She doesn’t hold back on her opinions about anyone or anything (hello, Donald Trump). She is really open about how she felt about her husband being away from the family so much, especially during his campaigns. She isn’t falsely supportive, she doesn’t pretend like it’s the best thing that ever happened, and I found that really interesting and enjoyable to read – it felt like a proper look at the processes involved in becoming president, the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the affect that it can have on a young family.
-How she tackles issues around race, and feminism. This was always going to be a topic in this book, especially the issue of race, considering how much of an ‘issue’ it was during their presidential campaign and their subsequent two terms in the office. Michelle Obama discusses it very openly, and she doesn’t come across as bitter, ever, which I can’t imagine was easy. It’s so jarring and disappointing (though sadly not surprising) to read how these incredibly intelligent, educated, accomplished and kind people were at time reduced to nothing more than their skin colour.
What I Didn’t Like
-While I found the beginning and middle of the book to be really interesting, the last chapters got a bit repetitive and I wasn’t really finding out much more about them, or the presidency, so it didn’t hold my attention as much as the rest of the book.
-The book could probably be quite a bit shorter, and still be just as good. It can be a little bit long-winded at times, and I did find myself skimming some of the more detail heavy paragraphs.
Overall though, I did really enjoy this book. Reading about such an inspirational and driven woman was a pleasure, as was the insight into the lives of arguably one of America’s most impressive and influential presidential families.
It feels a bit odd to rate an autobiography, like I’m rating someone’s life, but in a purely literary sense, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.