Saturday 26 January 2019

#CBR11 Book 2: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

Page count: 480 pages
Audio book length: 19 hrs 3 mins
Rating: 4 stars

During the eight years of Barack Obama's presidency, it became clear to me that Michelle Obama was a statuesque and beautiful woman, who was also clearly intelligent, caring and wanting to make a difference alongside her husband. Being part of the first African American Presidential couple in the White House and basically raising her young daughters more or less in the public eye cannot have been easy. Nevertheless, I didn't know all that much about Michelle Obama, which was why this autobiography was so interesting to me.

The book is divided into three sections - the first covers Michelle's childhood and early life, growing up in Chicago. The second section covers her life with Barack Obama from they met until he became president of the Unites States, and the third is all about their life in the White House. To me, the first two thirds of the book were absolutely the most fascinating. Of course hearing stories about being the First Lady, trying to get used to the Secret Service, travelling the world and meeting heads of state and famous people was interesting, the more compelling narrative to me was what made Michelle Obama the formidable woman she is.

Some of the things revealed in this memoir was probably more well known to an American audience. But to a Norwegian, who frequently tries to avoid too much current event news and especially politics (because even before 2016, it was pretty damn depressing), much of the things I learned in this book were new to me. I knew Michelle was from Chicago, but nothing much about her family background. I knew both she and Barack had legal training, but not that Michelle never really enjoyed the profession and how much more suited she was to different work. I knew very little about their life together before they became known on the world stage. It was a revelation to me that her two little girls are both the product of IVF. I suspect I will always feel kinship with women all over the world who, like me, have gone through fertility problems, and it made me feel a bit closer to this very impressive and accomplished woman.

I didn't realise just how against her husband's political career Michelle actually was, as she always seemed like such a supportive and enthusiastic spouse.  I can't really blame her for not wanting to share her husband with first a large constituency and then the entirety of the United States. Staying optimistic, idealistic and brave in the face of so much harassment and abuse online, both during her husband's campaigns and his time in office. She states outright towards the end of the book that she has no intention of EVER running for any kind of political office, and who can blame her? I think the Obamas have already sacrificed more than enough, thank you very much.

The final third of the book was also difficult to listen to in today's political climate, because the Obamas worked so hard, weathered so much criticism and abuse, because they genuinely wanted to make the United States a better place to live for as many people as possible. And since the election in 2016, that horrible orange toddler currently in the White House, not to mention the spineless, selfish, elitist supervillains in the GOP have done whatever they can to not just undo pretty much everything the Obamas accomplished, but they've made things much worse than before Obama even ran for President. Election night in 2016 was devastating to so many, but I can't even imagine how the Obamas must have felt. Michelle covers it briefly in the book, but doesn't go too deeply into it, exactly because you can tell that it's a very difficult subject for her, and also, because she's classy and still manages to go high when the temptation for mere mortals would be to go low.

If I recall correctly, even though it came out in late 2018, Becoming ended up being one of the best selling books of the year, not just in the USA, but ending up topping the bestseller lists in a lot of other countries world wide as well. I'm not entirely sure what Michelle Obama and her husband are doing with themselves these days (going to guess Michelle is going on a pretty extensive book tour, at least), but I hope they are relaxing and enjoying themselves, still trying to make the world a better place, on a quieter and smaller scale.

Judging a book by its cover: Michelle Obama is a beautiful woman. She looks happy and relaxed in the cover photo for her book. I like the font she's chosen for the title and that there's not too much going on here. The book doesn't need it.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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