Friday 5 July 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming ended up being an epic read for me, simply because I put the book down when I was half way through it in the New Year, when we were away and busy with family and summer and stuff, and then I forgot to pick it up again.

Other new, shiny books caught my eye and it kept sliding down the pile of half read books by my bed.

A few nights of waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep though, has cured that problem.

I find it too hard to read my fiction books at that time of the night, but the heavier non-fiction titles don't work either. An easy to read memoir is the thing that does the trick.

And a memoir that is full of the such hope, dignity and grace is the perfect antidote for the 3am blues.

I'm not sure I can add anything new to all the other rave reviews I've read for this book where Michelle Obama walks us through her childhood, her school years, her career, meeting Barack, having a family and moving to the White House. All I can add perhaps, is a perspective from the other side of the world.

There may be nuances particular to the American dream in Michelle's story that those from elsewhere may not fully appreciate, but I could appreciate the message about the importance of education to change lives. However, as Michelle realises too, it's not just a good education that gets you there.

In our modern Western world, a large majority of children have access to a good education. But not every child has the advantage of a strong, supportive, loving family or an inspiring teacher that can change the course of their lives, or a minister or neighbour who mentors them towards a better way. Good education, especially in the early years is vital, but so too are these connections, these people who boost, push, motivate, encourage and manage to say just the right thing at the right time to make a difference. People who open just one door, or people who do that one thing that makes your life easier for just that one magic moment. Then having the right personality to be able to make the most of those moments is the final blessing.

Michelle Obama was fortunate enough to have most of those things work in her favour. But it's her gratitude and her ability to give back, or to pay her good fortune forward, that makes her shine with grace and dignity.

Gratitude, grace and dignity are sadly lacking in much of world politics at the moment. Arrogance and bullying tactics have been mistaken for gravitas.

It is a curious thing watching all our Western democracies floundering on a bed of teenage petulance, seemingly in a race with each other to the bottom of human decency and kindness. I sometimes wonder if we are watching the death throes of the democratic process as we know it. The Obama White House may be the last decent government anywhere in the world for a long time to come. Living under the political systems currently in China, Russia, North Korea or Iran are not enviable or desirable in any way shape or form either. It could be easy to despair.

I have to remind myself of inspirational leaders like Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Justin Trudeau in Canada to know that it is still possible for kindness and inclusivity to be the guiding philosophy of a government and its leader.

Becoming reminds us that there are people in leadership positions who care, and care deeply. That small changes can lead to bigger changes. That individuals can make a difference. And that kindness and generosity will always be more admired than the alternative.

Michelle Obama's book is charming, genuine and heart-warming. The perfect antidote for the 3am blues.

8/20 Books of Winter Summer
Sydney 20℃
Dublin 20℃


  1. The Right are doing their damndest to restrict educational opportunities for all but their own fee paying children. In the US and here in good old fair go Oz.

    1. As a former early childhood teacher, the lack of care and forethought (by politicians) around our education system is heart breaking. They've reduced it to numbers and graphs and outcomes. Love of learning and being a life long learner have been removed from the equation as everyone spends all their energy focused on (meaningless and forgettable) exams and assessments.
      The unions have also made it impossible for experienced class room teachers to get paid more once they reach ten years. There is no reward for being a good experienced teacher (other than personal satisfaction).
      It's so frustrating.

  2. I read BECOMING before I went to see Michelle Obama at a venue near my home. She is such an amazing person and she makes the current people in the White House even worse by comparison.

    1. Wow! That would have been wonderful to hear Michelle speak in person. I could hear her voice the whole way through the book too.

  3. I really want to read this, but I have to wait a bit (I wonder if it will appear in our charity shops or whether everyone's going to keep their copy!). She is gracious and grateful and that's something sorely lacking in so many people nowadays.

    1. I really enjoyed reading this, but it’s not a keeper (I only keep books I plan to reread). I suspect there will be lots of readers like me - do your chances of finding it in secondhand shops will increase as time goes by.
      Apparently the audio is very good as Michelle narrates the story herself.

  4. Becoming has been one of my favourite books this year and will certainly make it into the top ten for me. How anyone cannot admire the Obamas for what they've achieved in a world that doesn't give them many chances is beyond me.

    Anyway, I love the book and I got to love the woman who wrote it. The story of her childhood, of meeitng her husband and of becoming the first lady of her country was just amazing. Thanks for your review, it made me think about it again.

    1. Despite the lives they’ve led in the past decade or so, they come across as being down to earth people still connected to everyday folk.

      The words that keep popping into my mind when I think about this book are genuine, authentic, warm, kindness, generosity, sincere...

  5. I've heard really good things about this book and am almost tempted to read it. Thanks for your excellent review! Normally while I keep informed, I like to stay away from politics but this sounds worth the read.

    Trudeau ..... He certainly makes sure he looks good internationally, but it sure helps to have some common sense to go along with the inclusivity or it isn't worth much. His swearing at other MPs whom he should respect doesn't make me respect him and a First Nations parliament member accused him of "not giving a 'BLEEP' about indigenous people". There's certainly more than meets the eye in truth vs. fiction with him.

    1. This book is not particular political. It’s an interesting memoir of someone who just happened to live in a world dominated by politics.

      And yes I understand Trudeau has some issues of concern that don’t always get reported (or only barely touched on) internationally, but I was scrambling to find more than one admirable world leader at the moment & after Jacinda, he was the best I could do - coming in second with a huge amount of daylight between, as they say!!

    2. " .....but I was scrambling to find more than one admirable world leader at the moment ...."

      Oh, my goodness, you made me laugh so hard!! It's so true, isn't it? It's almost impossible to find any political figure to admire nowadays. And after reading some political memoirs, I'm convinced it's almost impossible for anyone with integrity to rise to leadership in the current (may I say, worldwide) political climate. It's very sad. Thanks for your thoughts ..... always appreciated!

  6. Excellent review. I am listening to the book, and have been for a long time. It is a long book, and you can imagine how long it takes to listen to it. I think I am only half way. I enjoy listening to the book, read by Michelle Obama herself. She is doing it very well. I find the book interesting, although I think it lingers a little to much on details. It does go forward in a slow pace, some parts could maybe have been skipped. I find it almost too sweet and a too perfect life. I am happy for that of course. I am a great fan of both Michelle and Barak Obama. I think they are lovely people, and we need more people like them in politics. Responsible people, who care about other people. I will eventually finish it, although I don't listen too often to all my audio books.


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