Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

BecomingCoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.


Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction
My Copy Came From: I purchased the hardcover at Costco.

*** this post contains affiliate links ***


Review: Long, but full of interesting information! Becoming by Michelle Obama was a book I read for my book club. I typically don’t read celebrity memoirs, and while I did enjoy this, it will most likely not be a book I re-read, as I found it to be too wordy and repetitive.

I grew up with a disabled dad in a too-small house with not much money in a starting-to-fail neighborhood, and I also grew up surrounded by love and music in a diverse city in a country where an education can take you far. I had nothing or I had everything. It depends on which way you want to tell it.

Telling Michelle Obama’s story, Becoming is broken up into sections: Becoming Me (her upbringing and schooling), Becoming Us (she meets and falls in love with Barack), and Becoming More (Barack wins the presidency). Far and away my favorite section of the book was Becoming More, which dealt with life in the White House and how Michelle adjusted to life as First Lady. While this section dealt the most with politics, which isn’t something I’m really fond of, it was also full of the most fascinating details! Like the fact that the nuclear football weighs 45 pounds. The windows in the White House can’t be opened and it was quite the ordeal whenever Michelle wanted any kind of fresh air. And that they actually had to pay for food and supplies in the White House! I totally thought taxpayers paid for all of it – we don’t. This section was so interesting, that I’m now interested in reading other memoirs about Presidents and First Ladies.

It sounds a little like a bad joke, doesn’t it? What happens when a solitude-loving individualist marries an outgoing family woman who does not love solitude one bit?

The answer, I’m guessing, is probably the best and most sustaining answer to nearly every question arising inside a marriage, no matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice.

Besides learning about life in the White House, there was also lots of information about Michelle and Barack to learn as well. I’ve always liked the Obamas, so I went into this read curious to learn more about their life and relationship, and for the most part this book was exactly what I thought it was going to be. Uplifting and inspirational, but also quite long in sections and some points were hammered home again and again. I’m not a big fan of celebrity memoirs, and this, for me, fell under that category, and the beginning part detailing Michelle’s upbringing was the most boring section for me. Boring’s not quite the right word – it’s just that it wasn’t all that exciting.

There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.

While this wasn’t necessarily the most exciting of books to read, I did really enjoy the discussion we had at book club about the read. We all took away something different from the read, and had plenty to discuss, from the differences between the Obamas and the current administration, to the path to the presidency, to Michelle’s legal career, to Michelle and Barack’s relationship, to the role of First Lady, or to whether this had a ghost writer. I’d definitely recommend this book as a book club read!

Bottom Line: Inspirational and full of interesting tidbits, if a little long and wordy.

LINKS ***the Amazon link is an affiliate link which means I receive a small commission if you click the link and make a purchase***

Amazon
Goodreads

 

Have you read Becoming? Do you enjoy reading memoirs? Have you read any other presidential or First Lady memoirs?


10 thoughts on “Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

  1. I’ve been on the fence about whether to read this or not, for a lot of the reasons you give. I’m not keen on celebrity memoirs either, and while I like Michelle Obama, it did seem to me she didn’t have a particularly interesting or unique life until her husband ran for President. But I’m also amazed they have to pay for their own stuff! Now I’m wondering about our Prime Minister…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, your thoughts sound very similar to mine! I definitely recommend getting it from a library instead of purchasing it. Her life seemed very ordinary prior to the presidency – she worked hard at school and at her jobs, had a loving family, and always gave 100%. It’s inspiring, but not necessarily exciting.
      It was so interesting to read that they’d get an itemized list each month for everything they needed to pay for! Toilet paper, food, I couldn’t believe it! And the White House living area is so large – that’s a lot of supplies to have to pay for!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did your book club talk about how the current president often leaves the First Lady behind, barging ahead by himself? Or how he tries to hold her hand, and she slaps or moves it away? I can’t even imagine with Melania sees in Donald. She has to pretend to be an idiot to keep him happy, but why doe she have to keep him happy? Very strange….

    Did your club ever find out of this was a ghostwriter or not? I kind of hate that publishers can pretend like someone wrote a book they did not. Alex Haley famously and openly write The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and that certainly did not hurt sales.

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    1. There was such an obvious difference between the Obamas relationship and the current pres’s relationship (that we can see). The one thing that was made very clear is how everything in the White House revolves around the president – what he wants, how to keep him happy, how to keep him on schedule, keeping him safe, etc. So, it was interesting to see the mindset of Michelle and then I just kept thinking of the current pres & Melania and how different their relationship is (again, the parts that we see). Another thing we kept discussing was Michelle’s garden that she put in on the WH grounds. We all wondered if it was still there, or if it had been dug up (it’s still there and Melania I think did do an event centered on the garden). The garden aspect was quite a cool thing that Michelle did! Official visitors (when the Obamas were there) received honey from the WH bees and jams, etc. I don’t see that happening now, but who knows…
      There was also an interesting thing that Michelle talked about how Laura Bush showed her around and showed her her favorite places in the WH and how Michelle was dreaming of the day she’d show the next First Lady around, and the book never detailed that happening. Wonder if she couldn’t put it in the book, or if it never happened, or what …
      We never figured out if it was ghost written or not! We agreed that Michelle could’ve written it herself – she’s such a talented lady! But that it probably was ghost written. I couldn’t find anything online about it – just a few speculations here and there. Honestly I don’t know how she would’ve found the time to write the book – she’s so busy!!

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      1. I know that Pete Buttigieg just came out with a book that he wrote himself. He seems like one of those people who never sleep. Weird question, but does Melania even go in the White House? I thought she lived somewhere else all so her son wouldn’t have to change schools. I also know there are photos of letters one president would hand write and give to the incoming president. I don’t know if that happened between Obama and Trump (I would assume so, because Obama is about classy traditions), but I doubt Trump would ever write anything to the next person.

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        1. I think she has moved into the WH. I know she was staying in NYC for a bit after the election, but I’m pretty sure she’s moved in and Barron switched schools – actually yes, I know for sure that he changed to a school closer to Washington DC because I looked up what school he went to to see if it was the same school that Sasha & Melia went to (it is not). Michelle talks a little about their school in the book – it’s such a big deal security-wise for the children, so Michelle had to do a lot of research about what school would best fit for the necessary security. She ended up picking the same school that Chelsea went to as the school was already used to the high-security and attention.
          There is so much tradition with the White House! Michelle seemed to really love all the tradition and was really looking forward to continuing that on with the leadership change… somehow I don’t think that happened. I really got more of an appreciation for everything the First Lady has to go through. After finishing this, I really felt for Melania – it’s such a demanding, always be perfect, always say the right thing / look the right way role, with everyone’s attention on you! She didn’t grow up in politics, and neither did Michelle, so I’m sure she’s had a tough adjustment to it all.
          Another thing is that you cannot escape from the news. You have to constantly be aware of what is going on all over the world – it just sounded exhausting.

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          1. I think First Ladies need more credit. They’re often known for two things: what they wear (it’s always wrong, according to the press) and their “project.” Michelle’s was eating right and moving, and Melania’s has been bullying (IRONY!).

            Liked by 1 person

            1. For sure! It’s a lot of work to be a First Lady. They always talk about the “manual” that the president gets every evening with reports to read, schedules for the next day, etc etc (the one our current leader doesn’t read supposedly), and turns out the First Lady gets one of those (tailored to her schedule/events/interests, etc) each evening as well.
              I have seen almost nothing about the bullying (except for all of the jokes about it), while Michelle’s eating & moving was publicized all over the place!

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