The whole world heavily anticipated the release of Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming and at Style of the City, we were no different; rushing down to Waterstones on release day to pick up our own copies and hungrily turn the pages to find out more about this incredible woman.
Admittedly, I hadn’t know a whole lot about Michelle Obama before Becoming: I hadn’t followed the election campaign which threw their family into the limelight, I hadn’t known about all the incredible initiatives she ran from her position of power as First Lady (more on that later), but I had watched a few of her speeches online and knew she was an incredible speaker, captivating audiences and not afraid to speak her mind. I was drawn to the book, desperate to find out about her life from Michelle herself and I was not disappointed. If anything, reading her memoir has set a fire in me, a fierce sense of determination, a desire to work harder, be passionate about my values and remain hopeful in all situations, as she has throughout her life.
In her in-depth and intimate memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama details her journey through life from a young girl growing up on the South Side of Chicago to becoming the First Black First Lady of the United States of America, holding back no emotions and not afraid to talk about the multiple challenges she and her family have faced. As Becoming unfolds, you begin to understand that her story is about so much more than going from girl of the South Side to First Lady. You simply cannot whittle down a life of love, challenges and hard-work to that minimal description, as if the latter were the goal all along. Her writing is so personal which is what makes it, honestly, an incredible read. I could feel the walls being torn down, no longer seeing her as a public figure who’s made such a mark on history, instead seeing her for her core values: a strong, family-oriented woman who has achieved so much, yet is so incredibly down-to-earth that you could have been talking to your best friend.
Beginning with her early childhood, Michelle describes growing up on the South Side of Chicago when the word ‘ghetto’ was thrown around and many families moved out of the area. She talks incredibly fondly of her late father and his continuous optimism whilst living with MS. A particularly heart-warming story is revealed when Michelle recalls, with admiration, her father’s determination to keep working despite the debilitating condition. She talks of her mother’s intervention when a school she was attending was not teaching her effectively; moving her up to a higher grade class where she began to receive an appropriate education. Growing up in a strong family, with parents who always did what they needed to support the children, it is clear that many of these values remained with Michelle when it came to raising her own family.
Later in the book, Michelle discusses her and Barack’s worries about raising their own daughters in the bubble – as she calls it – of First Family life, explaining the agreements she arranged with the Secret Service to ensure the girls could grow up as normally as possible. She’s also not afraid to discuss the strain on family life when Barack worked in the Senate in Washington whilst they were living in Chicago; talking at length about the challenges of working full-time whilst looking after the girls and waiting for Barack to get home to have dinner, go to bed. The fact that Michelle does not shy away from discussing these difficulties nor their attendance of couples’ therapy sessions is part of the reason this book is so powerful: because it is so personal and real. Throughout the memoir, this authenticity and her devotion to family shines through powerfully.
What inspired me most from Becoming was the overwhelming need Michelle has maintained throughout her life to work hard; always aiming higher and continuously looking for true fulfilment in each of her jobs. Attributing many of her achievements to her good education, Michelle recalls her journey through Princeton – despite being told by the school counsellor that she wasn’t Princeton material – and afterwards onto Harvard Law School. As First Lady she used her position of power and her passion about education to set up the Let Girls Learn initiative, stressing the importance of allowing girls worldwide to access education and therefore increase their opportunities in life. This initiative, one of several she put into place and fought for during her time, was incredibly successful and has impacted individuals and schools worldwide.
Talking honestly about her dislike of politics, Michelle admits her reluctance for Barack to run for Senate and, years later, for President; further admitting her doubts that he would even win, the truth of which has to make you smile. Nevertheless, she describes throwing herself passionately into campaigning when the decision to run was finally agreed upon, and then the pain of being publically criticised in the media, being labelled names and having every aspect of their lives under constant scrutiny. Becoming the first black First Family added another layer of pressure, meaning they had to work twice as hard – as they had done in each of their previous jobs – to justify their positions of power. Although being thrown – somewhat unwillingly – into the public eye and the political world, Michelle made it clear that she wanted to use her position of power to truly make a difference. Adamant to not simply be the First Lady and the President’s wife, Michelle campaigned to make the country and the world a better and more diverse place – one where children of all genders, races, ethnicities and backgrounds believed in their own futures. Continuing, as she had done throughout her life, to keep pushing to achieve more for the next generation.
It was incredible to hear Michelle’s unfiltered journey: through the emotional time of losing her dad and struggling with IVF, to the joy of falling in love, to the pride in breaking down barriers, stereotypes and leading the way for a wider acceptance and celebration of diversity in the United States. The legacy Michelle Obama created from her time as First Lady is so powerful, but she’s so much more than that one position. Her memoir, Becoming, highlights how much one can achieve and what barriers they can break down with hard work and determination. It truly opens up the heart and soul of a woman who puts her family above all else but is incredibly passionate about helping others achieve and realise their full potential. Michelle Obama, a woman filled with optimism for the future, who is caring and confident and assuring and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. An incredible woman whose passion has helped created strong and confident individuals, starting with her own daughters, who believe in their own journeys to becoming themselves, as she is proud of her own becoming.
A truly intimate and inspiring read that I would recommend to all. To be let into the life journey so far of Michelle Obama, an incredible woman who works hard, loves hard and stays optimistic, presented in such an eloquent, emotive and intimate manner, is a pure joy. An inspiring memoir which will resonate with me for years to come on my own journey to becoming myself. I look forward to seeing where Michelle takes her warm heart, drive and enthusiasm for change and helping others, next.
To buy your copy of Becoming, visit https://becomingmichelleobama.com/