Book review: Becoming

Michelle Obama’s autobiography ‘Becoming’ was enjoyed by everyone in the group. She has an easy engaging style although some found it took concentration given the large number of people mentioned. The book is divided into 3 broad sections ‘Becoming me’ which concentrates on her childhood and college years, ‘Becoming us’ – becoming a couple and then a family in the context of the early years of Barack’s political ambitions and then ‘Becoming more’ – the White House years. 

She paints a picture of her family background – very close and supportive, encouraging individual attainment as a way to improve. She contrasts this with Barack’s upbringing and his vision – which was much broader as he saw that the way forward to improve the life chances for communities left behind by prejudice and racism was through community action – coming together to work to common goals. 

The years leading up to the election in 2008 were difficult. Michelle supported Barack partly because she didn’t believe that he would be elected. He was away much of the time and she was juggling work, providing a supportive home for their girls and actively campaigning on his behalf.  It really leaves you wondering why anyone would want to put themselves through the exposure, effort and sheer graft to become elected. I have great admiration for the vision and determination to improve people’s lives that drove them both. 

The peep into life in the White House is equally fascinating: the size of the security operation; the frustration of trying to work with a Congress determined to see Barack fail; the joy from the encounters she had with children and service families in the projects she promoted; the oppression of living in a gilded cage. 

The discussion took us into considering systematic and institutional racism – the progress made but also the way to go. 

I enjoyed being in the company of such a thoughtful, compassionate and generous woman.