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 

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