Becoming Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama has become an icon of our time, a leader in her own right. She’s now held up as a woman with agency, purpose and a voice recognisable beyond the confines of her country. Every other politician and their dog gets to write a biography so why shouldn’t Michelle Obama.

Despite being a huge Michelle fan (yes, after the book I have moved to a first name basis), I went in with low expectations. Sceptical that Becoming was going to be less of a biography and more of an exposé into what it’s like to really live in the White House, and be Barack’s wife.

But this biography, to my delight, does none of that. It is an unapologetically slow-moving book, so well written you are captivated by every anecdote and detailed description of the various apartments and houses she grew up in. There is no sense that Michelle is in a rush to get to what we all want to know about. She does not hurry mentions of Barack and her marriage, she does not skip details of her education to make space for more White House anecdotes. From the first chapter it is clear, that this biography is her story and hers alone.

Becoming has no shame in addressing the effect race, gender and income inequality had in her life. Never ceasing to mention how these identities were carried with her in every moment of her schooling, career and beyond, the stereotypes that were pinned to her, by the media or society in general, are continually dealt with in
an open and candid way. Not pausing to make any reader feel comfortable, it is a fully coloured story of her life.

The biography starts at the very beginning, providing many childhood anecdotes that continue throughout the book, adding meaning and context to the decisions and thoughts she has as an adult. Michelle provides a strong message of the importance of her upbringing and her surroundings as a child.

The biography effortlessly invites the reader to join Michelle Obama’s journey from a young, hard-working Michelle Robinson dealing with issues of a bad second grade teacher to First Lady of the United States. Beginning with personal struggles, the book later on addresses her place in America, and where she believes American society is today.

Nothing is sugar coated: the biography is a lively depiction of Michelle’s character, with various anecdotes that grasp both poignancy and humour. Which, as she points out is much like life.
This book is a biography, a self-help book, a drama and an investigation into the socio-economics at play in America today. If you’re not interested in any of that, come for Barack and Michelle’s love story where you can’t help but hear Barack asking Michelle on a park bench: “Can I kiss you?” In his cool but presidential voice. Absolute swoon.

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