I am new to the genre of biographies. In fact, Becoming is my very first read and I didn’t really know what to to expect, but I still bought Michelle Obama’s biography from Copenhagen Airport because I liked whatever little I had seen, heard and read about the former FLOTUS.
It took me MANY months to finish the book, for a number of reasons. For starters, I have lost my reading mojo. It has become increasingly difficult for me to focus and read. Second, the genre isn’t particularly exciting. Third, I finished the first half in about a week, and the second half took about 4 months, because life was relatable until she became FLOTUS.
Let’s start with the story – it’s about Michelle Obama’s life, from early childhood to the day she begrudgingly welcomed Trump and Melania into the White House. She details her struggle as a black girl in a predominantly black neighbourhood, the role her family plays in her life’s trajectory and her only tool to rise above and reach for her dreams – education.
It then goes on to explore her love life, with the man that she has now been married for 28 years now. It is in these chapters that I found the desire to continue reading and learning. She talks about how different they were, from upbringing to aspiration and life plans, yet they conquered all of life’s road blocks like a team that they are. It highlights the need for space, respect and trust in a relationship, and that not everything needs to be done together.
It was through this book that I learnt that Michelle, like many of us, had a plan for her life. And exactly like many of us, she also learnt that plans usually don’t pan out – for better or for worse. She got through Harvard, landed a good job, was up for a promotion, when she decided to change paths to better accommodate her present priorities. A lifetime towards a destination, only to realise that the end is but a right turn.
As a woman, of colour, in a country that can be extremely unpredictable, she has managed to be inspirational for many, including me. Her struggles to reach beyond her means, her integrity, her grace in letting go when the time came, her devotion to her family, her resolve to be more than her relationships (even when they included being the wife of POTUS), her kindness towards the staff, her resolve to make American children eat better and fight obesity, her ability to learn, unlearn and relearn, and many more such life experiences that can teach us a thing or two about winning at life.
It also deserves a mention that the book is very well-written and edited to a crisp. If something became too repetitive, it was only proverbially mentioned when required; important bits, like the causes that she was most invested in, made repeated appearance but with just enough gap to remain interesting.
And above all, I loved how she kept her story relevant, even though her life and journey are far from ordinary. She focused on the human aspects, positive as well as negative emotions, core values than the view from bullet-proof window of her house – she managed to keep it all real and relatable, and that for me is reason enough to recommend it.
While I was reading it, I felt differently. It was frustrating to not reach the end already. As I mentioned, it is a big book, and needs time. But in retrospect, I feel warm and happy when I think about it. It is a good story, of a life lived well, dotted with valuable lessons and quotable quotes. And I think you should read it too.