Book Review: Becoming

Photo courtesy of Amazon

In a small one bedroom apartment in the Southside of Chicago, before its infamous degradation, a young Michelle Robinson was born. She was the daughter Frasier Robinson III, a union worker, and Marian Robinson. This is where, 50 years later, the former First Lady of the United States returns to tell her story. She spared no detail as she described her ascent from a young girl in a impoverished part of Chicago to living in the White House.

The beginning of Obama’s life is told in a honest and heartfelt way that somehow feels universally relatable. One can picture themselves in her childhood home as she describes the fierce pride of her father or the quiet maternal instincts of her mother. Readers can feel the powerful winter winds as they commit their annual decent across the upper midwest, or the hot sun burning the pavement as Obama and her older brother race to the neighborhood park.

Obama describes her childhood as one filled with love and careful guidance, but she does not shy away for telling readers about challenges she faced. Readers’ hearts break along with hers as she describes her father’s painful battle with Multiple Sclerosis, detailing his gradual loss of independence and mobility. Obama is also open about bullies at school, the high academic pressure she put on herself and what it was like to grow up in her brother’s shadow.

From the quiet streets of the Southside, which were at this point beginning to experience the phenomenon known as “white flight,” the story moves from the elite charter high school Obama tests into, to Princeton University, to law school.

As the Michelle Robinson story unfolds, she meets every new setting with the same vulnerability. She is not afraid to talk about boy drama, homesickness or personal failure. She is also just as quick to credit every personal victory to people in her life. Obama attributes her success to her parents, her teachers and her mentors – but she takes little credit for her intellect or driven-nature.

The overall tone of the story shifts when Barack Obama enters the scene. At this point, Michelle was a junior associate at a corporate law firm in the heart of Chicago. Barack was summer intern who exuded a calm confidence and seemed destined for greatness. The two worked closely together for months, but Michelle was adamant about not starting a relationship with this strange boy from Hawaii. They developed a close professional relationship, but it was clear Barack wanted more.

When the two finally got together, their whirlwind romance is hard to put down. Their relationship seems destined from the start. Obama paints her new love as a selfless determined person who wants only to better the world.

In one chapter, she describes how Barack would often wake from his sleep and contemplate income inequality or gun reform. She notes that he is serious about his work and their relationship, but he is quick to hug a child or play basketball in the park with his friends.

The two lovingly endure long-distance and multiple career changes. They emerge a happily married couple at the joyous and busy time in their lives. Once again, Obama is open about challenges in their marriage and her difficult adjustment to a new job, young children and a busy husband.

When Barack approaches Obama about politics, she is not in favor. She disliked the competitive and often harmful consequences of a campaign, and a series of corrupt elected officials in the city had driven her from this side of the legal world. However, anyone who knew Barack knew he was exactly the type of person the state, and the country, needed.

The rest of the Barack Obama story is well-known. This book, however, is the first to give Obama’s side of the story. She describes the struggle of raising children with the eyes of the world upon them. She talks about times when their life was endangered. She comes clean about her resistance to the white house and her desire for a simpler life. However, Obama is strengthened by complete faith in her husband, and she grows in her role as first lady by starting initiatives to help children and military families.
The book, in general, does not contain life-altering secretes about the former first family of the United States. It does, however, give people a glimpse into the extraordinary life of Michelle Obama and what it is really like to live with a workaholic or have the eyes of the world staring at you as you try to take your children to school. Overall, this book was well told and would be a good choice for anyone looking for heartwarming story about love and strength.

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