Book Review: Michelle Obama’s Becoming
Michelle Obama’s addictive new Becoming is an intimate conversation with one of the brightest voices ever to grace Washington DC. As I finished its final page, I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t wanted a book to end.
Becoming is divided into three sections — “Becoming Me,” which details the author’s pre-Barack life; “Becoming Us,” which tells tales of first meetings, first dates, marriage, children, and the Obama family’s ascension to The White House; and “Becoming More,” which is a riveting account of time in the trenches and lessons learned along the way.
Obama possesses a powerful voice that vividly captures the detail in the seemingly smallest of events, giving them context that’s not always seen at first blush. Her literary voice is strong enough the keep the reader’s attention even when describing stories that are well-known. For example, the world already knows that her husband handily won the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, but Obama’s prose had me reliving those nights, biting my nails right along with her as election results rolled in.
Becoming includes more than a few surprises, including stories that detail Sasha and Malia’s resilience, challenges during the Obamas’ marriage, and Michelle’s staggering yet refreshing candor about her own doubts, insecurities, setbacks, and outright failures. Readers will be shocked to read about a major FLOTUS initiative that she managed to keep out of the public eye. And the book’s critique of then-private citizen Donald Trump’s creation and promotion of the racist “birther” movement is both scathing and satisfying.
And while I’m thinking about it, let me share that Michelle Obama either has the most comprehensive vocabulary or the most comprehensive thesaurus in history. I think I was in junior high school when I last had to look up so many words while I was reading a book!
My only criticism of Becoming is directed at a section in its final chapter, in which Obama runs through a laundry list of her and her husband’s accomplishments. As much of a supporter of the Obamas as I was and am, I could have done without that section, especially when Michelle drifted into discussing “our administration” and “our time in office” as if the position of POTUS were a jointly-held one. Their dance was, undoubtedly, a duet, but Barack was the president, so slow your role, Michelle. And given the candor of her prose, her description of a White House event that she ultimately reveals was a dream seemed like a bit of a bait-and-switch.
I have already purchased four copies of Becoming, with the tome being my de facto holiday gift for 2018. I am about to purchase a fifth, so I am unquestionably one of the people who is responsible for it becoming the best selling literary work of 2018 and already one of the best selling for this year. It’s money very well spent. Readers will finish reading Becoming as Obama ended writing it, knowing with complete certainty that we are all works in progress — we are all “becoming” — and for each of us, the next great adventure is right around the corner.
And after reading Becoming, I can’t wait to see what Michelle Obama does next!