by Michelle Obama
An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

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Safe, cautious, guarded but still interesting
I didn’t completely love the book. I was expecting Michelle Obama to be a little less guarded in it, and go a little deeper into her personal thoughts and struggles; to be a little bit more candid. I also wanted to find out more about how life is in the White House. On all of those fronts, this book mostly doesn’t deliver.
Mrs. Obama is an incredibly intelligent woman, and on top of that, she is a lawyer with an Ivy League education. That background has largely influenced this book, which feels like it’s been edited for any possibility of risky statements or disclosures. It feels too safe, too guarded to really be authentic.
She focuses a lot on presenting a very clean version of her life (her family was perfect; it was loving and supportive, her mom was without any faults, her father was equally perfect and he handled his disability with pride and no complaints). Is that realistic…? While her family sure must’ve been quite amazing, and I’m sure she loved it very much, nothing and no one is really perfect. I just couldn’t buy it.
She mentions very little about her marital struggles. She does say at some point they went to counselling, but again, it’s a brief mention, and ends at that. She seems to describe nothing but only marital bliss after that.
I did appreciate that she mentioned having a miscarriage, having to go through IVF to conceive, failing her bar exam at the first try and getting into Harvard from a waiting list. But I did notice one thing about the tone of the book; Michelle Obama is determined not to focus on anything negative. She mentions her miscarriage very briefly and almost dismissingly by saying that they’re very common and happen to more women than we all think. That again, takes about a half a page to a full page. Her IVF is mentioned, but again quite briefly.
She describes her life almost with a sense of distance at times. Focusing on events not feelings or emotions. There were few passages of the book that felt more personal, and I enjoyed them. The part where she says she skipped the final ball of the inauguration night (the one she was most looking forward too), because she was simply too exhausted to go. There is a part where she writes about Sasha thinking that nobody came to see Barack Obama’s acceptance speech the night of the first election because the streets were empty, and that in that moment she realized that they were emptied because now they were travelling with the President Elect. She describes how it felt like to see for the first time the heavy security surrounding her husband when he became the president with the massive helicopters, motorcade, snipers, secret agents, etc. That gave me goosebumps. I enjoyed reading about that tender moment when Malia got an ear infection on vacation in Hawaii, and when Barack Obama had to choose between leaving her and Michelle Obama alone to travel back home to cast a vote (an important one) in the senate or staying with his family (which did need him).
I was disappointed that she didn’t write about how life has been after leaving the White House. Yes, there is that one toast she made, but other than that, it’s mostly undisclosed in the book. Do they miss it? Do they get to enjoy their lives now more? What’s next for them (other than creating a foundation in Chicago)? The book doesn’t talk about that.
In summary, I do recommend the book. Michelle Obama is a good writer, and she is likable. She writes about race, and family life, and being a working mother, and friendships, and politics. It’s still an interesting read, if not a little bit too safe.