Thursday, December 27, 2018

Book Review | Becoming

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Honestly, I couldn't think of a better book to end 2018 with. When I first saw the announcement back in May of the release of Michelle Obama's memoirs,
Becoming, little did I know that I would become so much involved with the rich storytelling embedded within the folds of the text. 

I was graced with a copy on the release date, at one of several launch events which took place in the UK, and promptly dropped the book I was reading at the time so I could be fully devoted to Becoming. 






It's a hardback number, wrapped lovingly in a mint green glossy jacket, with Mrs. O's smiling face commanding attention on its front cover. Its simplicity makes a bold statement - something I was proud to slip out of my bag during my hour commute to work. Open the book, and you will find that in its centre are beautiful photos on glossy paper capturing key moments of the former FLOTUS' life - some, I might add depict quite intimate moments. 

I recommend whoever reads this to not skip the prelude where Michelle sets in place her emotions and the current state of her life, before she actually delves into her memoirs. 'My husband is making his own adjustments to life after the White House, catching his own breath. And here I am, in this new place, with a lot I have to say', she tells. And even before flipping to the next page, I knew that unconfined by the title of First Lady, Michelle is ready to be her most honest self yet.

About Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Born in the 1960s on the South side of Chicago to Fraser Robinson III, a worker at a water plant, and Marian Sheilds Robinson, a housewife, Michelle Robinson was the youngest of two children. Her and her older brother Craig, who is only a couple of years older grew up with a close sibling bond. 

Michelle begins Becoming by recounting a quite ordinary childhood: Her parents rented the top floor of her great aunt's house; she attended the local school in her neighbourhood; she played with her Barbie dolls, and was taught to play the piano by her great aunt Robbie. 





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But there is a backdrop of striving that persists throughout the account of her childhood. Like most black people in America, Michelle is the descendant of slaves. She was not born into affluence, and as she progressed into adulthood, family life became more burdened by her father's increasingly debilitating illness. But through it all, her determination to be a success was the common thread. 

A tale of three parts
The book is strategically divided into three parts. In the years that contain her childhood and the path to her career, Michelle is 'Becoming Me'

Towards the end of this first section, is where she shares her feelings at being employed as a fresh graduate at a top law firm in Chicago. And in a few pivotal lines, she describes, "a senior partner asks if you'll mentor an incoming summer associate, and the answer is easy...you have yet to understand the altering force of a simple yes...next to your name is another name...and it's an odd one". Cue the man who would become the President of the United States, Mr. Barack Hussein Obama. 

This leads nicely into the second part of the book, Becoming Us. Being a sucker for a love story, I must admit that this is where my interest in the text really began to gather momentum. This section describes their transition from the law firm they both worked at to the White House. It tells the intricate journey Michelle and Barack make from strangers to colleagues, to lovers, to husband and wife, to parents, and finally the 44th first family. But this is no fantasy fairytale. Michelle is very frank about the challenges they faced. The theme of striving persist throughout.  


Michelle Obama speaking about her book with Chimamanda Adichie at The Southbank Centre
Courtesy of The Southbank Centre

The third part, Becoming More, is a detailed account of life in The White House. This section begins with the Obama family getting used to life in Washington. "There is no handbook for incoming first ladies of the United States", she begins "it's a strange kind of sidecar to the presidency". Hence, Mrs. O opens the door to what it was like to carve out a role for herself in the White House, amidst media scrutiny, and ongoing casual racism whilst still being a wife and a mother. 

Beautifully written
My first impressions? Becoming is an absolutely enthralling read which will take the reader through a very thorough journey. Michelle Obama is a great storyteller with the ability to pull the reader into the centre of her lived experience.  On being a minority at university, she explains, "It takes effort to be the only black person in a lecture hall". On losing a close friend, she laments, "It hurts to live after someone has died". And when describing finding herself, she says, "If you don't get out there and define yourself, you'll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others". It's her way with words which I love. Michelle is often reflective, which is makes Becoming, not only entertaining but educational. 

The tone of Michelle Obama's book is very honest. Throughout her writing, she confronts her challenges and deals with her shortcomings. However, this does not subtract from the warmth and the positivity that is exuded from each page. Just trying to grasp the extent of all the former FLOTUS's achievements proved a huge task for me.



She has taken monumental strides to get to where she's at, which gave me a feeling of optimism throughout. I mean, can you just imagine that the young lady with Gullah relatives,  who ate cornbread and once smoked pot with friends would one day be seated in the White House, shake hands with The Queen, and create policies that would one day sweep changes across America? 

I enjoyed reading all of it. Although I knew how the story would end, I felt myself eagerly consuming every word until the final page.

My final thoughts?

You. Need. To. Get. This. Book. 

Published by: Penguin
Pages: 421
RRP: £25

You may also be interested in:
Book Review | Year of Yes
Book Review | Confessions of a Frustrated Millenial
Book Review | The Aso-Ebi Chronicles 





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5 comments

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