Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama is a book everybody seems to talk about. I didn’t like at all the picture on the front cover. She seems more like a pop star than the former First Lady. Regardless, I was curious and so I reserved it at the library many months ago. The first thing I can say about the book is that I’m disappointed with it.

Michelle brings up the race of the people she interacts with in all sort of situations when the colour of the skin makes no difference to the situation (or if it does, she is not giving too many details about them). She finishes the book with: “… to make fewer assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us”, but in the book she talks about the race constantly. She mentions the race of her teacher, other students in college (that was the only reference to them), her friend’s mother, her room-mates, people she worked with, her marriage counsellor, the staff in the White House. Why does it make any difference if those people were white, black, or brown?! There is no other context mentioned in the book, just the race, like it is enough to say something about a person, besides the colour of their skin.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

She was born into a working-class family, to a stay-at-home mother and a father that worked tending boilers at a water filtration plant. They rented an apartment in the house of a relative and she and her brother shared a bedroom. I liked so much the stories of her childhood, her parents seemed amazing, strong, loving, empowering, giving them the knowledge to make the right decisions. Of course, the race plays a huge part in this part of the book as well, she is compared with white people because she speaks American properly. Her father suffered with MS, that left him disabled and he died at 55. He didn’t want to go to an “wealthy white doctor” because he might be looked down. This didn’t happen, because he didn’t go to the doctor, but it was one of those biases and stereotypes instilled in her as a child.

At University she was spending time with other non-white people because she thought she didn’t have things in common with them. I found that puzzling, how do you know if you have anything in common with someone unless you talk with them. That should have been obvious for some studying at Princeton and Harvard. Anyway, after University she got a job at Sidley Austin, where she met Barack. She was involved in recruiting and, of course, race is again on the table because she wanted to bring students that were “something other than male and white”. Oh dear. The irony of complaining about race and gender discrimination while actively avoiding people with a specific gender and race. I’ve worked in HR and I couldn’t care less if the applicant was male or female, I only cared about their credentials, passion, and suitability for the job. Her issues with “whiteness and maleness” continue throughout the book. If a white person would say something similar about black people, she would be considered a racist, so it’s a bit sad Michelle doesn’t realize her own biases.

She met Barack and went on to have a relationship. He is presented as a “brainy superhero” (quote from the book), but their relationship doesn’t seem as perfect as she wants to paint it. He wasn’t supportive enough while she went through with IVF to have their two girls and she was upset with this. Things only got worse when the girls were small and he didn’t show up in time. Puzzling, she was more resentful of him instead of taking care that the children have a proper schedule that is suitable for them. They had to go to counselling to sort of these things out. At times Barack seems more interested in politics than his own family, including when he is not happy with her idea of hiring a chef a couple of times a week, so the girls have proper food and not the takeaways and weekly McDonald’s they were feeding them. A chef didn’t match the vision he wanted to portray.
The whole thing started when a doctor told her one of the girls was getting too fat and that she should take action. It was an wake-up call and she changed a lot. It is inspirational to see how much this changed, including her establishing the White House Kitchen Garden in a bit to promote and support healthy eating. She left a lovely legacy because, despite Barack saying that Trump will dig up the garden, in fact the garden is still there and Melania still hosts garden events, even if not as often as Michelle did.

Her time as First Lady in the White House is one of the most interesting parts of the book. It is interesting to see how much disruption she could create if she wanted to have a cup of coffee on one of the balconies (due to security reasons). She talks about how she tried to keep the lives of the children as open and normal as possible, considering the amount of security they had to have.

I’m happy I read the book because of these snippets of life in the White House, but the book is not as good as I thought it will be, considering all the 5 stars reviews it got.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 3/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: If you have the time, why not?
Published by: Penguin Random House
Year it was published: 2018
Format: Hardcover
Genre(s): Autobiography
Pages: 426

About the author: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is the wife of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama. She is also the first African-American First Lady of the United States.
Michelle born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. She returned to Chicago and got a position at the law firm Sidley Austin, where she met Barack Obama. After that she worked as part of the staff of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley and for the University of Chicago Medical Center.
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2 thoughts on “Becoming by Michelle Obama”

  • I think after your review I won’t be reading this book, as I would also find the same issues. And I’m not a fan of Michelle. And that cover photo reminds me of those photo shoots where they put lots of make-up on you and make you pose in “flattering” positions.
    I didn’t know she had this problem with feeding junk food to her children.

  • This is a book I’ve had no desire to read because I wasn’t a fan of Michelle Obama. Reading your review confirms many thoughts I’ve had, yet if I voiced them, I would be accused of being a racist. (my dissatisfaction of the Obama presidency had nothing to do with the color of his skin, but with his politics) I fear race relations in this world (and the US in particular) will never move forward favorably because of the tendency to always make color an issue and cast blame at those who are different from us. I can’t help but think Martin Luther King, Jr. would be disappointed in how little progress has been made. I believe he advocated that we live together in a world that sees us all equally through the eyes of God rather than by the color of our skin (or any other distinguishing factor).

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