Read my thoughts on Becoming by Michelle Obama.
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With taking on a reading challenge this year, I decided that I was going to a round-up of the books I read each month, but Becoming by Michelle Obama was such an incredible read that I thought it deserved it’s own review.
I’m not even going to bother with an actual synopsis of this book because I’m sure you get it. I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I heard about its publication. I was and still am a big fan and supporter of the Obamas, and Michelle is such an inspiration to me, even more so after reading Becoming.
The book is separated into three main parts – Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. She shares stories about her upbringing in the South Side of Chicago, and we get to know a about her parents, older brother, and members of her extended family. Even with all the odds stacked up against her, including a guidance counselor (yes, a school guidance counselor) that basically told her to set more “realistic” expectations for herself, she ended up at Princeton and eventually Harvard Law. We follow her on her journey to meeting Barack, and how an unexpected, semi-secret romance turned into a nosedive headfirst into politics.
This book isn’t about politics, and even if you have opposing political views, I would still recommend it. Politics do come up because they obviously have to, but the book is about so much more than that. It’s about growing up poor and black; it’s about not fitting in; it’s about fighting to achieve your dreams even when people are against you; it’s about an imperfect marriage held together by true love and belief in one another; it’s about the struggles and joys of motherhood; it’s about trying to maintain some sense of normalcy when you’re being thrust into the public’s eye. It’s not about politics.
I found myself identifying with so many stories that Michelle shares. From having people tell me that I “talk white” to experiences of being and recognizing that I am the only person of color in many rooms. She talked about career changes, and how even when she liked her job, was successful at it, and made a comfortable living doing it, it wasn’t bringing her the joy she wanted it to, so she changed it, over and over again. This is something that I can personally identify with as I’m on a journey from working in marketing to pursuing a teaching career. I could also connect with how she made sacrifices in order to put her husband’s career in politics first. I was amazed out how connected I felt to her stories when so many parts of our lives are vastly different.
My thing about this book is how open and honest she is about all parts behind the scenes and how she trumps the assumptions that people have made about her while also recognizing her humanness, the mistakes she’s made, and the missteps she’s taken. She’s real, and that’s why she has the ability to connect with so many people. She took the lessons she learned from her upbringing along with the experiences she had and the experiences of those surrounding her to use her status and platform to help those she believed needed it, even when it meant taking a pay cut or risking negative feedback from the public.
Also, as an aside, I received this book as a Christmas present from my boyfriend’s parents, and I read a good bid of it before deciding to finish the rest as an audiobook because of recommendations online. Michelle reads the audiobook, so it’s so neat to hear her share her own story, but the book contains photos, so I highly recommend both.
This book is so quotable, so I had to share some of my favorites:
“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child – What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” (This was literally in the first paragraph. I read this and knew I was in for something special.)
“Failure is a feeling long before it’s an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.”
“If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”
“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?
“Women endure entire lifetimes of these indignities – in the form of catcalls, groping, assault, oppression. These things injure us. They sap our strength. Some of the cuts are so small they’re barely visible. Others are huge and gaping, leaving scars that never heal. Either way, they accumulate. We carry them everywhere, to and from school and work, at home while raising our children, at our places of worship, anytime we try to advance.”
There are so many awesome quotes from the book, and you can read many of others favorites on Goodreads, but honestly, you should just read the book, and pick out favorites for yourself.
Overall I give Becoming 5 out of 5 stars (not surprisingly). I honestly could go on and on about how much I love this book and Michelle Obama, but I’ll just leave it at this – go read it. Anyone and everyone could benefit from the message she shares.
What women inspire you?