Thursday, 6 June 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama

‘I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey

I would have to admit to feeling somewhat neutral about Michelle Obama before reading Becoming.
Some years ago I thoroughly enjoyed reading Barack Obama’s excellent autobiography Dreams from My Father, which is all the better for having been written years before he entered politics.   Becoming fills in the gaps from the end of that book, and is a fascinating insight into life inside the White House.  

Michelle Robinson had a humble but grounded upbringing in a small apartment on the South Side of Chicago.  Her father had Multiple Sclerosis yet never complained nor sought medical help. Somehow he went to work literally every day until the day he died.

Michelle describes her family's slave roots and the casual and blatant racism causing her grandfather and father to have blue collar low-paying jobs.  A union card was a necessity for many jobs but union cards were unobtainable for African Americans. Partly due to this, education and success were valued in her family and she became a Harvard trained lawyer with a high salary. When she quickly became disappointed by the paperwork of the job she chose to take on a community job at half the salary, much to the horror of her parents.

When Barack Obama becomes a summer intern at her firm she is asked to be his mentor.  A lovely slow-burning love story follows, despite the fact that she initially tried to set him up with one of her friends:
 ‘To me, he was sort of like a unicorn—unusual to the point of seeming almost unreal. He never talked about material things, like buying a house or a car or even new shoes. His money went largely toward books, which to him were like sacred objects, providing ballast for his mind.’

The second half of the book focuses on political life - something she had and claims to still have a strong aversion to.  Life behind bomb-proof glass with children and a constant Secret Service presence presented many challenges. During her eight years as First Lady Michelle  focused on helping military families and promoting children’s health, famously starting a vegetable garden within the White House grounds.

Throughout Becoming Michelle Obama maintains a dignified tone and pokes fun at her Head Girl-ish personality, while explaining the challenges of going from being an independent professional to being known as the wife of someone.

Reviewed by Katrina

Catalogue link:  Becoming

No comments:

Post a Comment