Friday, November 16, 2018
Book Review: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama
God, do I miss the Obamas.
Since I've had the right to vote, two presidents have energized and excited meBill Clinton and Barack Obama. That's not to say that I agreed with everything they did, or that there weren't times when they disappointed me. But in both cases, their candidacy and then their campaigns for re-election motivated me enough to volunteer, excited me enough to be fraught with nerves as election results came in, gave me cause for celebration, and left me sad when their terms ended.
Reading Michelle Obama's new memoir, Becoming, reminded me of those times. It also reminded me just what a fan I've been of hers since watching her and her daughters when President Obama declared his candidacy for the White House almost 12 years ago, since hearing her speak at the 2008 Democratic National Convention. I was always wowed by the sheer joy she appeared to have for the job of First Lady, despite the overwhelming amount of cruelty she and her family were subjected to throughout her husband's two terms as President.
With Becoming, she gives you a glimpse into her childhood and her relationship with her parents, which definitely impacted the way she carried herself throughout her life and how she raised her two daughters. It tells of her ambitions, her desire to help make the world a better place (one clearly shared by her husband), the challenges of marriage and motherhood, and how she dealt with her husband's political ambitions. She talks of her desire to make an impact as First Lady while at the same time ensuring her daughters' lives were as "normal" as they could possibly be, and the successes, frustrations, and disappointments she experienced.
I love the matter-of-fact way she shares her feelings and experiences, revealing emotions and fears and moments of anger, as well as the moments of sheer joy, as mother, as wife, as daughter, and as First Lady. While she certainly reveals instances when she felt she wasn't treated fairly by the media or by those unhappy with her husband (or her), this isn't a tell-all book. She is critical of those that deserve her scorn, but even when she didn't see eye to eye with people, she didn't tear them to pieces.
For the most part, the Michelle Obama you've seen at public appearances, on television shows, and in photos, is the Michelle Obama you get in Becoming. And that feels just right. This is a woman who loves her life, loves her country, and most importantly, loves her husband, her children, and her family. She doesn't overinflate her importance or her contributions as First Lady but she realizes she held a position few women have through history, and to be the first black woman to be First Lady made her a role model in the eyes of so many. It may have been a position she wasn't always comfortable with, but it is a role in which she absolutely shone.
"For me, becoming isn't about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn't end. I became a mother, but I still have a lot to learn from and give to my children. I became a wife, but I continue to adapt to and be humbled by what it means to truly love and make a life with another person. I have become, by certain measures, a person of power, and yet there are moments when I still feel insecure or unheard. It's all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there's more growing to be done."
There was much to enjoy about this book, much to think about, and much to savor. And, at least for me, much to reminisce about.