Review of Becoming

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Review

You’ve seen her doing pushups with Ellen, discussing vegetables with Sesame Street’s Big Bird and declaring, “When they go low, we go high,” at the 2015 Democratic Convention. And you watched as she became America’s first African American First Lady, glowing with daughters Malia and Sasha as her husband Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office. In this powerful and beautifully crafted memoir, Michelle Obama invites you to relive her journey, from the tough South Shore neighborhood of Chicago, through the hallowed halls of the Ivy League and along the rough road that led to the White House. Michelle writes with wit, depth and insight, not only about her time as First Lady, but also about universal experiences such as losing a father, falling in love, having a child and attempting to balance a career and motherhood. She explores issues of public education and race as she retraces her early years, describes how she met and started a family with Barack, and discusses the couple’s entrée into politics. Finally, Michelle brings readers into the White House, sharing her struggles to adapt to life in the public eye and define her role as First Lady. Throughout, her honesty, optimism, authenticity and sense of wonder shine through.

These are the successive stages of “becoming” Obama has, retrospectively, identified as the formative periods of her life:

About the Author

Michelle Obama is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, a former lawyer and executive director in the nonprofit sector. She was the First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017.

 

“Becoming Me”

Michelle Robinson Obama recounts how she grew up in a two-family home on Euclid Avenue in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago: The house belonged to her great-aunt and great-uncle, Robbie and Terry, who resided in the bottom floor. Michelle, her parents and her older brother Craig lived in the small, upstairs apartment. Michelle’s father, Fraser, was a precinct captain for the city’s Democratic Party. Michelle often accompanied him to visits with constituents, watching as he patiently listened to complaints about potholes or plowing; his concern seemed bottomless.

In 1969, Obama writes, she entered kindergarten at Bryn Mawr Elementary School with two advantages: she could already read basic words and had a popular brother in the second grade. At school, Michelle quickly identified the smartest kids in the class and vowed to keep up with them. Her neighborhood and school were middle class and racially diverse but undergoing a transition. Each year, there were fewer white children in Bryn Mawr’s classes. Michelle’s mother, Marian, was active in the PTA at Bryn Mawr and helped start a “gifted and talented” program, in which Michelle took part. Obama recalls her as a level-headed parent: She praised successes, but not overly so, and acknowledged problems, but not to an extreme. Marian reentered the workforce as an executive assistant at a bank when Michelle started high school. 


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