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In Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

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Michelle Obama stops in Austin as part of her national book tour. 

By Raylyn Nicole, Photos courtesy of Penguin Random House

Michelle Obama is stopping in Austin today on her national Becoming book tour. A sold-out crowd at the Frank Erwin Center will get the chance to hear the former first lady discuss her life before and after the White House.

Her memoir, which reads like a novel, is split into three parts: Becoming MeBecoming Us and Becoming More. The same firm but kind voice the United States heard for eight years reverberates through her writing.

Photo courtesy of the Obama-Robinson Family Archives

Becoming Me takes the reader back to Obama’s childhood home, a small upstairs apartment she shared with her mom, dad and brother. Her experience growing up with a close-knit family that was not perfect but loved deeply sparked her journey of questioning who she wanted to become. 

Through lessons of love and loss, she comes back to one mantra that defined her childhood: I am enough. Obama fought against the odds and doubts cast upon her to pursue education, graduating from Princeton University then going on to get a law degree from Harvard Law School.  

Photo courtesy of the Obama-Robinson Family Archives

Becoming Us is part love story and part reality check. She offers a vulnerable look at her life as a politician’s wife and working mother and reveals her humanity with gut-wrenching honesty about grief, job satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—and infertility.

Readers also get to relive the 2008 election as the former first lady begrudgingly gets pulled into the political spectrum. She and her husband had a deal: If he lost the presidential campaign, his days in politics would be done. During campaign season, her goal was to introduce the nation to their family in an honest and authentic way. As they toured the country in a battle of speeches for the presidency, the power of words took on a new weight. 

Becoming More takes readers into the White House. From behind-the-scenes factoids (The president still receives a bill for the food consumed and products like toilet paper.) to parenting philosophies, her stories highlight the surprising moments of normalcy sprinkled in among their White House life. The Obamas strived to give their daughters a well-rounded childhood; they girls made their own beds, participated in school activities and Malia worried about being embarrassed by her parents when her prom date picked her up. 

 She also divulges the not-so-normal side of White House life with stories of the motorcade that always accompanied the president, the “nuclear football” at his side and the snipers constantly keeping watch. The weekly dates the couple went on as newlyweds were much more complicated to plan as POTUS and FLOTUS. A date in New York City meant shutting down city blocks and a night at the theater meant extra security and a delay in the start time. 

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

During her days as first lady, Obama visited injured military personnel in hospitals, met Nelson Mandela and beat Ellen DeGeneres in a pushup contest on live television. She threw herself into working on legislation to fight childhood obesity and was able to secure a nice sized patch of the White House lawn to start a garden. 

At the end of the presidency, the couple stayed in Washington, D.C., so Sasha could finish high school. The book finishes with a clear message: Obama cares about the country and wants the best for it. And to 2020 hopefuls, no, she doesn’t have plans to run for office. 

Obama believes change happens with us, and her memoir is a beacon of hope and encouragement, beckoning readers to be more welcoming of others because engaging with people who are different than you and learning from them is how you grow, how you become. 

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