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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Roye

Book Review of "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

Updated: Apr 1, 2021

I enjoy reading, so I wrote this review on one of my favourite books.

In this book review of "Becoming" by Michelle Obama, I will be discussing three main themes: 1. Upbringing and influences 2. Love and marriage and 3. Career and purpose.

The first theme is “upbringing and influences”, and at the start of the book, we get an inside look of Michelle growing up on Euclid Avenue in Chicago. She highlights the experiences and influences that made her the Michelle Obama we know and love today. Even though her childhood was not perfect, what I like about her upbringing is that she and her brother Craig, were brought up to be open and honest, to be go-getters, to strive for what they want. They were brought up in a household of love but were not sheltered from the harsh realities. In talking about her mother, Marian, in chapter 4, she said, “she loved us consistently…her goal was to push us out into the world. I’m not raising babies, she’d tell us. I’m raising adults.” In my opinion, that is how we should raise our kids.

In Chapter 3, Michelle recounted an experience when she was about 10 years old. She said, “Everyone seemed to fit in, except for me, and many of us, can relate to having a desire to fit it in, whether at school, at work or even in our own families. She also said, “I look back on the discomfort of that moment now and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are, with where you come from, and where you want to go.” In the first part of the book, we see Michelle’s determination to succeed from an early age, which lead to her attending ivy league schools, and landing a job at a top law firm.

The next theme is love and marriage. I enjoyed reading this part of the book the most. I loved Michelle and Barack’s dynamic. I read Barack Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope” years ago, and loved reading Michelle’s side of the story in her memoir. It was very refreshing, learning about how their relationship progressed.

Michelle described Barack, as this highly anticipated whiz-kid summer associate at Sidley and Austin, the law firm where she worked. She was his advisor/mentor. I loved the little sarcasm that Michelle had and the undeniable aura that Barack had. Barack had an ability to be kind of a chameleon, he was able to blend into any environment – he was a law student and a community leader, who able to 'throw down' on the basketball court. Michelle admired his “self-assuredness". Barack had ambition and vision.

In chapter 8, Michelle said “Barack would flop unto one of the chairs in my office, as if he’d known me for years”. I can certainly relate to this, and I believe that the person you choose to be your life partner, should be someone you can talk to with ease and be yourself around. There is just so much to unpack when it comes to their relationship.

However, marriage is not always peachy and so I like that she spoke about how she and the girls would wait up for Barack, until the girls fell asleep and her resentment towards Barack who was able to find time to go to the gym. She spoke about them going to counselling, which gave her perspective and helped them to identify gaps in their communication.

I loved that she decided to take control of her happiness and worked out a schedule to go to the gym. She said, “I recommitted myself to being healthy”. That’s so powerful. Sometimes, as women or as people in general, we look to others to make us happy or to feel validated. But true happiness must come from within. Our happiness should not be hinged on the actions of other people, because the truth is, you will always be disappointed. Happiness is within our own reach. We should not depend on external factors or things to be happy.

The final theme is career and purpose. In Chapter 12, Michelle mentioned that she was raised to be confident and to see no limits, to believe that she could go after and get absolutely anything she wanted. Because, as Suzanne would say, why not?

Michelle had been living her life, checking boxes. However, losing her friend Suzanne to cancer at the tender age of 26 and being with Barack who devoted his life to making a difference in society, made her question her career aspirations and the direction her life was headed. She left her job at the law firm, and took a huge pay cut to do more meaningful work. It made me think about my own life and how I would like to live the rest of my life. How, I would like to make an impact in my own small way.

In a bid to support Barack, as he ran for presidency of the United States, Michelle gave speeches, and her words were often twisted by political opponents, and members of the public. But she used this as a learning opportunity to become a better public speaker, with some coaching. The communications professional in me, also liked that Michelle mentioned that she and Barack rehearsed before speeches. Practice makes perfect, and it takes a lot of effort to sound effortless. With each day, we should all strive to become a better version of ourselves and Michelle speaks about this in the epilogue, she describes “becoming” , as a forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. She talks about becoming a mother, wife, and person of power. She says “Becoming is never giving up on the idea, that there’s more growing to be done.”

Michelle has undoubtedly made her mark. The initiatives that I liked, and she speaks about them in her book, was her advocating for healthier food in schools and implementing the Let’s Move! Active School Program.

Now, let us discuss the writing in this book. Firstly, I loved Michelle’s sense of humour. For example, she said the keys on Robbie’s piano looked “like a set of bad teeth” (chapter 1) and called Barack’s apartment in DC, his “hole away from home” (chapter 15).

Lastly, I liked the vividness and creativity in her writing. For example, here is a description of winter in Chicago from chapter four: “Frigid, biting winds blow off the lake. Snow falls in dozens of ways in heavy overnight dumps, and daytime, in sideways squalls in demoralizing sloppy sleet and fairytale billows of fluff. Then she goes on to talk about the slow reversal of this weather. She says, you feel first in your heart that winter may have passed, and as spring comes around, your certainty returns and you’ve made the choice to stay.” Living in Canada, I can definitely attest to everything Michelle is saying. In the heights of winter, I feel like packing up and going back home to Jamaica, where it’s warm but when spring comes around, I start feeling cozy and happy again, and no longer feel like going back home because it’s so beautiful here. Then winter comes back and the cycle repeats itself.

Personally, I found "Becoming" to be very inspirational. The book definitely lived up to my expectations. I would encourage you to give the book a read or a listen if you haven’t already. Please share your thoughts on the book in the comments.

This review was written December 2020.

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