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Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

I love memoirs by ordinary people who became famous. Following their story from humble beginnings to success is inspiring and entertaining. I’ve read the memoir of Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush, so when Michelle Obama’s new book, Becoming, showed up on my library’s ebook reader, I jumped on it. You should too.

First of all, the book is very well written, engaging, and entertaining. Maybe it was ghostwritten or maybe Mrs. Obama is a Princeton and Harvard education woman who writes well. Either way, the story is her own.

Second, I’ll never be able to fully understand what it’s like to grow up as a black girl in urban Chicago. I did, however, find a lot of common ground with the former first lady. We both grew up with both parents in our home and with parents who put an emphasis on education. At one point, she tells the story about her mother having her removed from her second-grade classroom because the teacher wasn’t a good teacher. She commented several times that she often thought about the children who were left in the underperforming classroom. I’ve worried too about children whose parents either are not engaged enough to notice their children need intervention or who don’t know they can intervene in their child’s education.

In my work writing articles for medical clinics, I’ve read many of the statistics that minorities struggle with chronic disease at higher rates than whites. Mrs. Obama sheds light on that situation as her grandfather and her father refused medical intervention because they did not trust doctors. And who could blame them? Most doctors were white men. Mrs. Obama’s father and grandfather did not have a history of positive interactions with white men.

Finally, I could identify with her struggle to find some middle ground between Mary Tyler Moore and June Cleaver. As a wife, mother, and business professional, I’ve been led to believe I should strive to have it all. But no one can have it all. We all make sacrifices along the way. One of those sacrifices Mrs. Obama found herself making was her family’s nutrition.

Looking back we can see the Obama daughters grew up to thrive in the world, but the middle Mrs. Obama worried about the effect all their choices would have on their children. Don’t we all share that same worry?

I don’t agree with a lot of her politics. Reading her perspective on some political events of her husband’s presidency reminded me there are always two sides to every story with the truth somewhere in between.

Regardless of what you thought of President Obama, the memoir of his wife is a must-read.


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