Becoming

Inspirational. Proof perhaps that the people best suited for positions of influence are those who don’t seek it for themselves.

Book title

Becoming

Author

Michelle Obama

Standalone or series

Standalone (autobiography)

First time reading this author?

Yes

Why I picked this

All I’ve heard are rave reviews of this since it came out. Having listened to Barack Obama’s autobiography A Promised Land earlier this year, I wanted to see a different perspective.

Review copy or purchase

Purchased as an audiobook on Audible.

What it’s about

Former First Lady Michelle Obama talks about her life, how she became the person she is today and how she has used her profile to encourage young people to feel a sense of belonging and self-worth.

Review

This feels like a very honest account by someone who always worked hard to do the best she could, even when she was in a position of influence she had never sought for herself.

Michelle Obama’s autobiography is an amazing read (or listen as I read this via audiobook). Much more focussed on the people than the policy which is given heavier weight in Barack Obama’s autobiography, it charts Michelle’s own life from growing up in a small apartment on Chicago’s southside, going to Princeton and Harvard and progressing on a career track as corporate lawyer.

Her own self-determination is clear from the start. From her battles with her great aunt and piano teacher when she wants to skip through the proscribed lesson plan to play more advanced songs. To her first day in school where a competitive streak drives her to keep up with the best in her class.

Barack doesn’t make an appearance until more than halfway through this book, which is how it should be. Marrying the man who would lead their family into the White House has obviously changed Michelle’s life significantly, but it didn’t make her who she is fundamentally.

Michelle talks openly about her childhood, in a way which acknowledges the challenges whilst also acknowledging the foundations of a loving family who gave her a sense of independence and the belief that she could do whatever she set her mind to. A belief in herself that Michelle made a conscious effort to gift to the young people she met as First Lady.

She’s also honest about the struggles. The hurt caused by political opponents and media commentators making personal attacks on her and Barack. As Barack acknowledged in his autobiography and Michelle makes clear here, while Barack was able to ignore or downplay a lot of this as being part of the political ‘game’, Michelle found it harder to deal with, and to resist tackling head on.

Overall this is a fantastic story of the personal history of a woman who shows the benefits of believing in people, lifting them up and letting them know that they belong and have a right to be heard.

Rating

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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