Books

REVIEW: Becoming by Michelle Obama

‘Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.’

After reading just the preface to Becoming, I knew what followed would be both inspirational and warm.

Like quite a lot of young women my age, I’m a fan of Michelle Obama. To me, the way she’s supported her husband while maintaining her own independence, and used her position of power to amplify the voices of others, speaks volumes. She also, somehow, always manages to appear human and relatable.

So when her autobiography was published last year, my interest was piqued.

Thankfully, my Mum gave me a copy for my birthday, adding that she hoped she’d given me the confidence to challenge myself and follow my interests (she has).

*

The book begins with Michelle Obama, post-White House, reflecting on the madness of her time as First Lady.

What follows after that is an honest account of her life so far – from childhood to the present.

Certain parts of the book stood out to me the most – and these are, in my opinion, what characterizes the former First Lady.

  • The upbringing she had – with a large family including an incredible, brave father, supportive mother and protective brother. Michelle is quick to give credit to her parents for raising her to be who she is today.
  • Her career and the various hurdles she jumped to remain independent…It was refreshing to read about someone who decided, bravely, to leave a well-paid, highly regarded job in law for something she found more fulfilling and enjoyable. She spoke about her ambition to do well in life but also to enjoy the career she was in, ultimately taking a pay cut to get that balance. It was also refreshing to read her honesty about juggling parenthood and work – deciding to negotiate her hours to be part time, but realising that actually, it just didn’t work as she was doing the same amount of work as when in her full time role. She’s raised a few very good points about women still being able to work despite having children – even taking her young daughter along to an interview to prove a point – that her work had to be balanced with her role as a mother. She successfully negotiated days working from home and shorter hours. Finally, she stuck to her guns when Barack decided to run for President; showing her reluctance to leave her job. Despite eventually having to do so, she was determined to remain active and vocal in the areas she’d spent her career working in and became a vital spokesperson for the importance of healthy eating, education and equal opportunities regardless of race and background.

‘I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As it at some point you become something and that’s the end.’

  • Meeting the Queen. Her faux-pas of touching the Queen’s shoulder in affection when laughing at a joke shocked the media – but Michelle points out that the Queen didn’t mind, and actually laid a gentle hand on her lower back. Michelle is one of those famous figures who comes across as genuine and warm and this instance – where she broke ‘protocol’ through a well-meaning, friendly gesture – almost proves that…

Becoming was a revealing and inspiring memoir – but it was also just a very, very good book. Michele is so personable and that comes across in every page – her love for her husband and her family, her passions, her ambition. It’s all there, just waiting to be read.

Becoming by Michele Obama is published by Viking, part of Penguin.

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