Review of book, Becoming, by immediate former U.S. First Lady, Michelle Obama, 2018

Make no mistake—this is Michelle Obama’s memoir!   Michelle’s book is about her life.   Her name is Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.  

I can relate to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s life growing up.   Michelle was a black child from the south side of Chicago, Ill., and I was a black child from the east side of Baltimore, MD.    Michelle and I both grew up in a working-class community that rented.     As a young black child, she had neighbors of different ethnicities getting along just as I had when I was young.   She was considered a nerd just as I was growing up because we liked to read and write.    Her father died of complications of multiple sclerosis and my father died from complications of diabetes.   Neither man sought medical attention until it was too late. 

Black people became store owners, teachers, bus drivers, policemen, mail men, etc.   The neighborhoods were close.   Neighbors could discipline your kids.   She had grandparents, aunts and uncles living in the same neighborhood just as I did.  “Urban towns are full of good people who wish the best for their children.”  Michelle was just one of the young treasures growing up in every city in the world.   But Michelle does not try to paint herself as perfect in this book.  She talks about her flaws.

I believe her husband Barack Obama, U.S. President, was the epitome of what a President should be—to care for all people, new and old, not just some.    He respected all parties and attempted to work with everyone.  Michelle believed that Barack was the right person for that moment in history.   He would inherit a mess.   The president vows to protect the U.S. Constitution.   Oh, that’s what presidents swear to do when they lay their hand on the Bible at their inaugurations.

The President sees almost everything first:  tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama; extremist shot up Army base in Texas; mass shooting at movie theater in Colorado; shootings inside Sikh temple in Wisconsin, as well as shootings at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges.  20 first graders and educators were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.   Hurricane Katrina’s assault on Louisiana in 2005.   1800 people died and a half million were displaced.  A tragedy exacerbated by the ineptitude of the federal government’s response.   I can’t imagine having that much responsibility, knowing you have to try to do something about the problems that others can’t.

She wrote in detail about the difficulty of the presidential campaigns while trying to raise two children, run a household, maintain a job, plan and execute traditional White House parties and dinners, and personally organize and promote campaigns against obesity in children.

Michelle wrote positively about political opponents like John McCain.   Hillary Clinton’s gender was used against her relentlessly, but Michelle admired Hillary’s ability to stand up and keep fighting.     

I didn’t know that the President and his family do have to pay bills such as food and toilet paper, although the White House is rent-free.  They also have to pay for every invited guest’s overnight stay or meal.  Michelle paid for her own clothes and accessories.  

In 2008, Twitter was new and most adults had cell phones.   General Motors bankruptcy was coming.   North Korea was doing nuclear testing just as they are today.  There was an earthquake in Haiti.   A Louisiana oil rig was spewing oil in the Gulf of Mexico.    The BP oil spill was the worst in U.S. history causing local southern economies to suffer.   Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy Seals.

Most humbling to Michele was visiting military communities and hospitals.  Wounded soldiers still wanted to rise and greet the President and First Lady.   Teachers, nail technicians, and physical therapists from one state weren’t recognized in another state which affected military spouses’ abilities to bring in additional income every time they had to move.   Childcare was not affordable.

If one didn’t vote, it could affect what kids learned in school, health care options available, or whether troops were sent to war.   Any U.S. economic crises sent devastating ripples across the globe just as they do now.

“No matter what I did, I would disappoint someone.”   She and her husband visited Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Nelson Mandela, and other world leaders.   “Life was teaching me that progress and change happen slowly.  We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see.”  

In 2011 the last American soldiers left Iraq.  A gradual drawdown was under way in Afghanistan.   Major provisions of the Affordable Care Act had gone into effect.   There were terrorist attacks on American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya.

This was one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read.  However, it was not an easy read, knowing that we lived through most of what Michelle talked about.   I salute you President and First Lady Obama for a job done as well as it could be done under the circumstances.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin 

Review of the books, When You Think No One is Watching: Wild but True Hotel Stories, volumes 1 & 2, by Emmanuel Gratzimi, 2016 & 2017 respectively

The stories in Mr. Gratzimi’s books on the hotel industry range from hilarious to deadly.  For example, a hotel client’s head was crushed by someone throwing a liquor bottle from the penthouse.    This was caused by minors drinking in someone’s room.  This was a very moving case which caused me to tear up—lives destroyed for a party.

Clients as well as employees break the hotel’s rules often in spite of the hotel’s security staff.   Clients have illegal parties, being so drunk that they don’t know someone is bleeding in the same room.  This applies to dignitaries, celebrities, and average hotel clients.

Some of the clients do such foolish things that they seem to want to be caught.   “From what I heard, from a later report, the man’s wife, who was in fact an attorney, prior to divorcing him, represented the prostitutes pro bono.”

There were cases of employees using rooms to have sex with other employees.   One employee’s husband charged a room to his wife’s credit card so he could have sex with a prostitute.  However, his wife worked in the same exclusive hotel and brought management and security to her husband’s room.

Unknown to me, emergency situations happen often in hotels in which paramedics, police and/or firemen have to be called.   I couldn’t even imagine the types of things noted in his books.   The books were eye-opening and shocking, but easy reads.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Review of book, Leave the Rat Race to the Rats, by Michael Irving Phillips, 2016

Mr. Phillips’ nonfiction book about the rat race is difficult reading for me because it’s full of statistics, research, history, philosophy, and truth–ideas which take some contemplating.  I find myself taking notes which certainly slows down my reading.   I bought his book at a Citylit book festival in Baltimore, MD. 

Phillips speaks of the “Goodwill revolution which will not be violent”.  He quotes many prominent leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr, Nelson Mandela, etc.     He says that “the social class systems divide people, resulting in envy, hatred, heartache, and much bloodshed.”  

“Revolutions are not unanimous (not supported by everyone).   Evil is very pervasive in our society…is an aberration, because we are born good.   The things that touch us deeply are the needs for health insurance, living wage, hunger of children, justice to prevail, abhorring bullying, abuse, and exploitation of the weak and innocent.”

“We deny our feelings of goodwill to embrace apathy, insensitivity, because we feel helpless to do anything about it”.   Rat Race is a book that everyone in America and the world needs to read.   I haven’t finished reading it yet, but I hope to soon.

I’m submitting this partial review to get his book out there for those who don’t know about it.   Michael Irving Phillips’ book is neither depressing nor boring, but very enlightening.

Written by Rosa L. Griffin

Woodlawn Page Turners Book Club

As I mentioned before, the Page Turners Book Club meets at 7 p.m. usually on the third Thursday of each month  (no meeting July, August, or December) at the Woodlawn branch of the Baltimore County libraries, 1811 Woodlawn Drive, Woodlawn MD  21207, https://www.bcpl.info/locations/woodlawn/index.html, 410-887-1336.   Come join us!

Woodlawn Page Turners

Book to be discussed: Sula, by Toni Morrison

3rd Thursday, November 21, 2019

7 p.m. in the Conference Room

All adults are welcome!

Submitted by Rosa L. Griffin