Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama
Reading Michelle Obama's book Becoming, was just what I expected it to be, an immersion into an inspirational life told with beauty and grace. What I did not expect was all the ways in which I would be able to relate to some of her experiences.
She grew up in a household that was limited in economic resources but not in love and rigor. She watched her working class father resist the slow debilitation of his body as he pushed through his physical pain to go to work every day. She shares memories of her extended family and the big get togethers that would include good food and lots of music. I too grew up in a family with limited economic means, with a working-class father who at various moments in his life has also been challenged by physical pain and yet would still awaken before dawn to get to work. My earliest memories in the Bronx include raucous holiday gatherings with my father's numerous cousins, music and dance kept us entertained until late into the night.
Michelle Obama attended a prestigious ivy league institution where she felt, at times for the first time, what it meant to be a "minority." Much as I did in the same situation, she found solace in the multicultural center of her alma mater, surrounding herself with those that were familiar. I often wondered if I'd isolated myself by spending so much time at Brown's Third World Center. But reading about Obama's experience made me realize that looking for solace in alienating places is a survival method and if our favorite FLOTUS did it and not only survived but thrived then why should I question my own choice to do so as well.
She also shares her life as a mother and how, above everything else that was going on in her life in the White House, her primary concern was always the happiness and safety of her daughters. During her tenure in the White House all that we saw was her public persona, but rarely was it visible to us how she too suffered from the same anxieties many of us moms go through with our children. While she's always appeared to me as very approachable, reading about her experiences with motherhood made me relate to her in ways that felt much more personal than anything else she did or said as First Lady.
In the end reading Becoming for me wasn't about getting an inside look at the life of a First Lady of the United States, but sharing in the experience of how a fellow woman of color, built upon the foundation she was given in her childhood, to create a life where she could be authentically her best self, something I still strive for every day.