It seems strange that it’s been only 2 years since the Obamas were in the White House, but then time doesn’t fly when you aren’t having fun. One could argue that Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, has done so well because of the nostalgia for the Obama administration post-Trump, but it’s also just a really good book.
The former First Lady of The United States released her book in November and it has been extremely well received. Most leading newspaper critics have given the book 4 or 5 stars and it currently has a 4.69 (out of 5) rating on Goodreads. Not only that, but Michelle Obama has since gone on tour in America (also stopping in Britain), of which many of her tour dates sold out almost as soon as they were released.
So, a huge fuss has been made about the book, and quite rightly. I’m not usually much of a reader of autobiographies, but I listened to Becoming on Audible, on which Michelle Obama reads the book herself out loud, and I quite happily listened to all 18 or so hours of the recording (over the space of a few weeks) with great interest. Obama’s soothing tones made pleasant listening for sure, but it was what she said that kept me listening.
Michelle Obama is undoubtedly an incredible and inspiring woman. Whether you agree with her politics or not, it’s pretty incredible for a black, working class girl from the south side of Chicago to make it into Princeton or Harvard Law, or as a successful lawyer. That being said, I did feel when listening to the first few chapters that they could have been cut down a bit. Some of it was very justified in being there, but despite the adversity she conquered, the fact that she worked hard at school for her success only needs so long to be explained.
Once Obama becomes a lawyer, however, that’s when the book gets to the really good stuff. The struggle that she faces in choosing a fulfilling career is not only relatable but intensely relevant to the lives of young adults now, as well as informative on how to approach this kind of professional decision. Her writing is encouraging, but also emotive and friendly, so not only do you feel inspiration from her story, but you somehow feel her support in your own career and dreams. The losses that she faces throughout her life are also intensely felt by the reader, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up at certain particularly sad parts of the autobiography.
Most interesting to me was the way Obama discusses her introduction into life as the First Lady, a job she didn’t choose but excelled at. In the details that she writes she brings up issues and concerns that had never occurred to me about life in the White House, negotiating the role of First Lady but mostly about trying to give her daughters the most normal possible childhood under the circumstances. Whilst I could never know if it is, it felt like a very honest description of the role, without sugar coating or complaining. Much to my disappointment it did also make me realise how unlikely it would be for her to run for President, as much as I might want her to.
I would definitely recommend giving Becoming a read. Not only is it well written, but it’s insightful and inspiring. And if nothing else, read it for her reaction to Trump’s inauguration, where she ‘stopped even trying to smile’.