I have heard a number of people commend Becoming to me, so I assumed it would be well written and I would enjoy it. Becoming was not over hyped. I have read a number of political memoirs, and I think this is probably the best of them, although that may be in part because she is not running for anything and she is not a particularly political person.
Becoming is primarily focused on her early years, and her life before becoming First Lady. The two years before Obama took office and the two terms in office are roughly the last third of the book. I was both more interested in her early years and in her as a person than the politics, so this was great for me.
I used to live in Hyde Park. Barak Obama was my State Rep then State Senator before being elected to US Senator right before I moved out of Hyde Park. I met Barak only one time, when he was a guest lecturer for a class in the spring of 1998. I went up to talk to him after class because I was having a problem with some non-profit work I was doing for my job and he was happy to talk through it briefly and let me know he would be happy to help if I needed help. I remember going home to my wife and saying I had met a future president.
When Michelle talks about his charisma, intensity, and brilliance, I can honestly tell you in the 50 minute lecture and 5-8 minute conversation, I was absolutely convinced he would be president someday. I do not think I have ever me Michelle, but I know I know people that have known them both prior to their fame.
What is best about the book is the humility and the real openness about her own struggles. The section on the struggles of being a working mom, who was married to a man that was frequently away from home are not only helpfully introspective, but also honest in a way that I do not think many memoirs are.
There is a very similar section about her struggles to find her calling and purpose that would make me want to recommend the book to many young people that feel like they need to have everything together at a young age. That section is also a helpful look at the constraints that bind someone with lots of school loans and pressure to carry on with a job that pays well, not just because it pays well, but because you really do need the money.
I do not remember where I saw it, but on twitter the other day, someone said something about having grown up Black and poor and going to a elite school (cannot remember if it was college or high school or it it was even said). The person said that she (I think it was a she) saw politics and history taught as as it were a game. Michelle’s comments about the original campaign and in particular about the negative press that was targeted at her and the campaign’s response that ‘this is just politics’ reminded me of that tweet.
I have heard similar things a couple times since I connected this in my head. Politics matters because people matter. That does not mean that partisanship and politics are the same thing. But politics presented as a game does matter and it is damaging. Politics are not a game.
I do not think that Michelle Obama will run for future office (she explicitly says she will not in the book), but I do think she will likely take up some causes that will matter. She is not shaped in the same way that Barak Obama is; but she is a brilliant, successful woman in her own right apart from Barak and I look forward to the role that she will continue to play in our national life.
I checked the audiobook out of the library. Michelle Obama narrates and does it well. The emotion and humor and warmth of the book carry through really well in audio. I do want to pick up a copy of the print sometime in the future and re-read it.