I dragged my feet on reading Becoming because I assumed that it would be like any other celebrity memoir — hackneyed writing in big font with many cliches and platitudes, written to sell to a large audience of already committed fans. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was totally wrong. Becoming is an honestly and empathetically written book — Michelle Obama exhibits a surprising amount of frankness when discussing her struggles, skepticism of Barack’s political runs, the office of the First Lady et cetera.
The book truly shines in the first two thirds, when Obama writes about her life growing up in Chicago’s South Side, her family’s struggles, her father’s illness, her time at Princeton and Harvard, and then as a corporate lawyer till she met Barack. I appreciated the honesty with which she wrote about her marital troubles, as in moments when she noted that Barack would find time to go to the gym while she was overwhelmed managing her job and raising her daughters. Her admission of her skepticism regarding Barack’s political campaigns was refreshing and unexpected, as well as her account of participating in his 2008 Presidential campaign and even there, feeling like she wasn’t being given adequate resources and support till she advocated for herself.
The book dedicates a relatively small amount of time to Obama’s time as First Lady itself. She could’ve easily gone down rabbit holes pertaining to global politics and diplomacy but instead she chooses to focus on her initiatives as First Lady and the challenges of raising a family while being the first Black occupants of the White House — issues that only she can write about with her unique perspective.
At times, Becoming does venture into self-help like territory, with lines “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others,” but I don’t think I could hold that against a book by someone who is probably one of the most inspirational figures of our time and given that much of her audience (myself included) will be looking to her for these words of encouragement.
Becoming is a deeply personal book in a wonderful way — it neither becomes saccharine while detailing happy memories nor wallows too much in sorrows, both of which have been frequent and many in the Obamas’ lives. This is a unique memoir that I would strongly recommend to everyone.
You can read more of my reviews here.