This is a book that we have all been waiting for, isn’t it? I remember when the first announcement was out and I immediately got excited and then the cover real! Suddenly, it started to feel very real. And now it’s out in the world and here is Michelle Obama’s story, in Becoming. And it really is something very special.
I love Michelle Obama. We all do. This book has been a massive event in the book world and publishing industry. It has been an event. There’s been a massive buzz behind this book and it’s for good reason, too. This isn’t just another book about secrets from behind the White House – this is her story and it’s full of warmth, joy, sadness and it’s hopeful from the start to the end.
First of all, I love the title of this book. Becoming. Especially on the cover – it’s something very clever, I think. It’s’ literally ‘Becoming Michelle Obama’ not ‘Becoming by Michelle Obama’ and that’s what this book is all about – becoming. I think it’s a brilliant title for a memoir, because we are becoming – always becoming. But, as Michelle Obama, we don’t stop becoming, either. It’s a continuous cycle and I think that’s a big and important thing to take away from the book.
There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to read this book. One, I wanted to read Michelle’s story as I didn’t know that much about her life. And two: I love politics and especially books about politics, and I wanted to read about her life in the White House and from her perspective. Seriously, nothing makes me happier than reading about election nights – just like in Hilary Clinton’s book, What Happened. When Becoming was first released, I was in university all day and couldn’t grab myself a copy and I forgot to pre-order it and I started to get massive FOMO as everyone was reading it and loving it. So, the next day, I grabbed a copy as fast as I could. I ran home, started to read it and I devoured it. It’s just a special book.
There are a lot of stories and moments that I just loved throughout the book but one of my favourite passages is at the beginning. In the preface, Michelle is in her new family home, out of the White House and is home alone. So, she decides to make toast, but then she decides to make cheese toast instead. It’s something so normal but of course, it’s more than that. I smiled ear to ear reading this passage and it still makes me smile, now. She writes:
In the end, I didn’t just make toast; I made cheese toast, moving my slices of bread to the microwave and melting a fat mess of gooey cheddar between them. I then carried my plate outside to the backyard. I didn’t have to tell anyone I was going. I just went. I was in bare feet, wearing a pair of shorts. The chill of winter had finally lifted. The crocuses were just starting to push up through the beds along our back wall. The air smelled like spring. I sat on the steps of our veranda, feeling the warmth of the day’s sun still caught in the slate between my feet. A dog started barking somewhere in the distance, and my own dogs paused to listen, seeming momentarily confused. It occurred to me that it was a jarring sound for them, given that we didn’t have neighbours, let alone neighbour dogs, at the White House. For them, all this was new. As the dogs loped off to explore the perimeter of the yard, I ate my toast in the dark, feeling alone in the best possible way.
Something so ordinary and mundane but there’s just something about that particular passage that I just fell in love with. As soon as I read that moment, I knew I would be in safe hands. I loved reading about her childhood and growing up with her loving family in Chicago. Family obviously means something to Michelle and this shows from an early age and is enshrined right throughout the book. I loved reading about her school years and going to university. Throughout these school years (and later on), there’s a question lingers: am I good enough? This is something that I have asked myself on numerous occasions and still do. Am I good enough? I think it’s something that we all go through in life, that doubt creeping like a shadow on our shoulders and Michelle writes it so effortlessly and positive. Some of my most favourite passages are when she starts to date Barrack Obama. Every moment between the two of them in the early days of their relationship felt like a rom-com. I could just see the scene playing in my mind. It’s obvious that there is a deep love rooted between the two of them and they are soulmates. It sounds cheesy but it’s true. Their love for each other just bounces off the pages and it was a complete joy to read.
I found the sections on Barrack running for President so interesting. Like I said, I love reading books about politics and especially election nights and this book doesn’t disappoint. In this book, we don’t have a ‘this happened, this happened, this happened, etc’ approach, it’s much more rooted in reality and it’s Michelle’s truth. In these sections, we see her doubts, her feelings and worries about the election and I thought it was brilliantly written and a wonderful insight. It’s was also a great insight of being the First Lady and how she didn’t want to be an accessory to her husband, the President, she wanted to make change, for good. She did so much in those years in the White House, from championing children’s education, health and nutrition and so much more.
Another favourite story of mine in the book is when she wants to go outside the White House and see it all illuminated with the colours of the pride flag. After coming home from a funeral, she wanted to celebrate with the others outside celebrating marriage equality. And obviously, with protocol, it’s hard to walk outside the White House but she was determined and her daughter Malia tried their best to get out and see the beautiful colours on this extraordinary day. She writes:
The humid summer air hit our faces. I could see fireflies blinking on the lawn. And there it was, the hum of the public, people whooping and celebrating outside the iron gates. It had taken us ten minutes to get out of our own home, but we’d done it. We were outside, standing on a patch of lawn off to one side, out of sight of the public but with a beautiful, close-up view of the White House, lit up in pride.
Malia and I leaned into each other, happy to have found our way there.
I love, love, love that moment. It’s just so pitch-perfect, just like the rest of the book. This has been a massive publishing event and it deserves every bit of it. What I got most from the book overall is that we are all have our own stories and we should own them. As she writes in the preface:
Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.
I also took away that we are always becoming as we grow and grow. As Michelle says right at the start, she hates it when adults ask children: what do you want to be when you grow up? And it’s something that I think too, that there is a final end in sight as children grow they should become something. But aren’t we always becoming? Every single day of our lives. And I think that’s a very important message to take away from this book.
This book is frank, honest, raw and wonderful. I loved every second reading it and I bet a lot of people will be having this under the Christmas tree this year. It’s a wonderful insight into the biggest and most powerful house but also of a formidable, powerful and strong woman – Michelle Robinson Obama. A truly great and powerful read.
Also, if you haven’t watched it yet, on Oprah’s Facebook page, there is an interview with Michelle that is a great companion after reading the book. Also, Michelle narrates the audiobook herself so perfect if you are a fan of audiobooks!
Have you read Becoming yet? What did you think? What did you take from the book? Let me know in the comments!