Books

Becoming – Michelle Obama

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 finally finished this book, a whole year into it being gifted to me and the tears, laughter, eye rolls and pleasant surprises have been wonderful, confusing and a major reality check. There are nights I read until 4:00 am in the morning without a hint of sleep, there were times that it was too heavy, the tears wouldn’t stop flowing in how personal Michelle Obama’s story is.

I loved this book because it was the story of an ordinary woman who works hard in school because that’s her way out, she becomes a lawyer but very quickly realizes instead of a well paying job she wants to be more impactful she takes less money for more change.

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The book is divided into three parts:

Becoming Me:

Highlighting her life from childhood to adulthood, being a girl from the South Side who got to study at Princeton and Harvard and who quickly realized that skin color didn’t make one race smarter than the other.

Becoming Us:

Details her story with Obama, it’s not your usual love story, no two lawyers can write a text book romance for sure, but it is beautiful, from the first kiss to the proposal (I was livid about this one). She humanizes Barrack his perfections and imperfections. When they had issues and when they had good days, when she didn’t want him in politics and when politics robbed her of him and losing herself in the process.. It’s not some fairy tale love story with smooches and hugs it’s real with the pain that life brings and the joy that two people can build.

Becoming More:

Elaborates her life in the White House, being the first lady, how the media painted her as an angry black woman because she wanted to have a voice in her husbands campaign. How she finds her footing and drives initiatives such as Let Girls Learn and Let’s move alongside getting support from military families.

I struggled with this book in the beginning because I only knew who Michelle Obama was as first lady and Obama’s wife. The rest felt like I hadn’t signed up for, in short bias. Which is absolutely unfair because it means I also fell through the cracks in accepting a stereotype for women. It is however so refreshing to meet her, she is beautiful not in the standards of modern day branding with blond hair and blue eyes, but she looks like me. She studied what I study, she had the same fears I have on whether this degree will make an impact, she wasn’t usual, it’s not a usual story because life isn’t usual. I love that she writes:

So many of us go through life with out stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American – that if our skin is dark and our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is until someone dares to start telling that story differently.

I love the title Becoming where she believes you cannot be just one thing as life tells you to be, at whatever age you are still learning, still growing. With all that life threw her way she had no idea how to process the unfamiliar territory. At one point she is a Harvard educated lawyer, the next she decides to stay at home to take care of the kids even though she is a believer of equality. On marriage even when she felt things were falling apart and they needed help to stay together she learns that you cannot expect your happiness to come from your partner, I love that she shared:

No matter who you are or what the issue is: You find ways to adapt. If you’re in it forever, there’s really no choice

She was also human, afraid of the criticism on her, what it would do to her husbands campaign not wanting him to run for president but supporting him even though she didn’t believe he had a shot and somehow keeping her family together. How she handles being the first ever black family in the white house isn’t something she is trained for but learns on the job with an amazing team she makes her lifelong friends. She feels like kindness, she feels like home, she feels like an essential big sister who says, because I can so can you no matter where you are in the world. She shared earlier in the book:

Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result

In her time as first lady she meets icons all through the globe and like anyone she also feels small because being first lady doesn’t come with a manual, and learns a lot that positively impacts her, I love that her garden taught her patience even when the best result weren’t out she held on to hope, hope being a key aspect in how she spoke to young people, the future of any nation. One of my favorite part is when she wrote:

Life was teaching me that progress and change happen slowly. Not in two years, four years, or even a lifetime.

This is an essential read for every woman whatever the age, a story by another that embodies how limitless life is. In all its extremes good and bad. I love that she didn’t get lost in being only Mrs. Obama, in being just a lawyer or just a mum, she took life in her own stride even when others weren’t too happy knowing there was always someone who would have a problem.

I will add that I felt severally she was robbed of the opportunity to steer her life as she choose, because she was a wife of a politician and a mother which isn’t a surprise in today’s society. It made me uncomfortable that even though we can do it all someone had to give in the relationship and it was her so that Obama could be what he aspired for. I will not claim to understand the dynamics of marriage but I absolutely admire that she finds her voice and becomes her authentic self in a world that constantly tried to define who she should or shouldn’t be.

This is a book that makes you feel powerful, offers a shared struggle for most women and allows many more to have a voice and she says it perfectly:

There is power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your own unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This for me is how we become.

Format: Hard cover

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group 

Published: 13 November 2018

Genre: Biography/Memoir

Setting: United States of America

Page count: 448

Pages: 400

Price: Ksh. 2950

Available at:Book Duka: The African Bookstore

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