This was the first book I read in 2019. Becoming is a 466-page book authored by the irrefutably talented, 44th First Lady of the United States, Michelle Lavaughn Robinson Obama.
Mrs Obama carries the reader on her back as she relives her life as a young girl in the South Side of Chicago, through her campus days at Princeton and Harvard and as she navigated the privileged waters of being married to the most powerful man on the planet, the 44th President of the United States.
Michelle Obama is raw, honest, detailed and frank in her story telling. Her story is as inspiring as it is potent. We see the other side of her that is rarely told. She isn’t just someone’s wife. She wasn’t just a woman who wore high-end haute couture, smiled and waved at the cameras. She is a human being of impeccable achievement. She has attended some of the finest institutions of learning on this planet. Not only that, she has excelled at both!
Michelle Obama’s story, more than anything, inspires hope. She grew up at a time when racism and gender inequality were relatively higher in the United States. She had a simple upbringing. She wasn’t born into a wealthy or powerful family. She wasn’t of blue blood. She however, grew up in a home that was rich in love, support and encouragement. Her story underscores what many of us take for granted. That if you have food on your plate, a place to rest your head and people that love you, you are rich.
She has always been a top achiever. She didn’t hide her academic prowess or suppress her abilities to excel, so as not to be seen as a geek. She wore like a badge of honour, as she should!
She has had a few romantic relationships before she met the man she would later be married to for more than twenty five years! TWENTY FIVE YEARS! That’s longer than I have been alive! Her romantic journey reinforces what is often overlooked, in this microwave generation. That Prince Charming won’t always be found as easily as it is depicted in fairy tales. That we won’t all find love when a stranger runs into us in the hallway, knocks our books out of our hands, helps us collect papers that are strewn on the floor and as we reach for the last piece of paper, we end up touching each other’s hands and feel the electric shock waves of love running down our spine, lock eyes, lock lips and live happily ever after.
Her relationship with Barrack Obama was cultivated over time. It took time, effort and will. For many years, they had to spend considerable amounts of time apart owing to Barrack’s demanding schedule. However, the point that struck me the most about their relationship, was that she wasn’t trying to find the ‘right one’. She wasn’t trying to get anyone’s attention. She was working on herself. She was working on her career and her general well being. Barrack Obama came into her life at a point where, as my baby sister, Waridi, would say, she was already working on being “the best version of herself”, as was Barrack.
Their relationship wasn’t one of a superior and inferior. Her upbringing wouldn’t allow it, anyway. Their’s was a partnership. Two imperfect people trying to be make each other a better person. They have been doing that for the last twenty five years.
She inevitably gave us a perspective of Barrack Obama that we have come to love him for. A caring, thoughtful and ambitious man. From his time as a community organiser, to his time as a young attorney, to his time as congressman and ultimately, to his time as the President of the United States. He is, as President Bill Clinton once remarked of him, “a man who is cool on the outside but burns for America in the inside.”
Michelle Obama guides us, as only she and forty four other women can, into what it’s like to live in the world’s most famous and protected houses, the White House. She deftly and cogently walks us though the rigmarole of being guarded by the elite men and women of the Secret Service. How whereas it is a privilege, it also comes with sacrificing a lot of freedoms. All understandable, in the interest of security.
She used her position and influence, to advocate for a lot of good. Through programs such as Let’s Move!, she advocated for healthier living and more importantly, she advocated for better standards of living for the men and women in uniform who bravely serve to protect the American people all over the world. It’s testament to her and Dr. Jill Biden’s hearts, to dedicate themselves to looking out for the welfare of the men and women in uniform.
Michelle Obama expertly weaves us through what it’s like to achieve perhaps the greatest act of a balancing technique, that of being a mother and a career woman. She shows us that one doesn’t have to be sacrificed for the other. That indeed, women can have both. We see how protective she is of her beautiful daughters, Sasha and Malia, as they got to grow in an extremely unique time when their father was the President of the United States. Her relationships with First Lady Laura Bush and Secretary Clinton, show that transitions need not be a hair-pulling affair.
Of importance, is how she put her teams together. Whether it was before Barrack was elected President or after the fact. She carefully selected a team of dedicated, loyal and committed men and women to help her and her family. It speaks to her spirit as a team leader. That no matter how gifted, intelligent or popular, we can’t do it all on our own.
As only she could, she paints a picture of the rigours of a campaign. The long periods spent apart from your loved ones, the long hours put in to traversing the vast American country to seek for voters’ mandate, the sacrifice, the toll it takes on your health and inevitably, the vitriol and diatribes that you are bound to encounter. Yet with everything thrown at her and her husband, they braved the murky waters and made it to the Oval. And leave a mark they did!
This is a literary masterpiece that everyone should read! It’s exceptionally well written, well detailed and richly informative.
To President Barrack Obama and Mrs Michelle Obama, thank you for showing us that, YES, WE CAN!
To Michelle Obama, thank you sharing your story with us!
Thank you for giving us these immortal words;
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as a forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self.”
A review by Aura Billy Osogo.