Book Review: Becoming, by Michelle Obama


Published in 2018, Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming has sold over 10 million copies. It is the story of a Black woman growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois; it is about her roots, her education, and how she learned to use her voice. Whilst Michelle Obama is famous as a former First Lady of the United States, this book only touches on her time in the White House.

For Michelle, the White House – politics, in fact – is her husband’s story. Of course, she embraced the way of life Barack chose, she made difficult decisions in order to aid him, and evidently supported him wholeheartedly in his bid for the presidency, but Becoming is about so much more than the Presidency.

Obama’s story is an inspirational look at the black community of Chicago, at the place she came from and the family that raised her. This sense of community is important throughout the memoir, and it’s evident that it drives many decisions in her life. From early on, Obama is self-motivated and dedicated to education, a theme which is evident in her later dedication to accessible education for all.

Becoming also touches on the difficultly women face in finding balance: how do you be both a mother and career woman? Driven as she has always been, Obama’s faced the idea of giving up on work to take care of her children with great difficulty and her candidness on the topic is admirable. There’s a lot to learn in Becoming, not just learning from Obama’s example but also from where she admits to making mistakes.

Given the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, first established in 2013, Obama’s book has reappeared on global reading lists. Not only is it on lists of must-read Black authors, but it has been promoted in lists which aim to educate people on Black matters: the disadvantages Black people face, the everyday discrimination, and the difficulty of reaching the same places as their white peers.

Whilst Becoming cannot contain an entire education on the BLM movement – it is, after all, a memoir of one woman’s life – the conclusion turns to the shootings of Black Americans. Obama lists each person, the loss of their lives evidently something that would stay with her long after her role as First Lady ended.

With her memoir ending on this note, with a handover of the presidency to Donald Trump, it would be easy to finish reading with some sadness, a sense of wariness for the future. And yet, Obama finds a way to provide her readers with hope. She eloquently expresses that whilst this may feel like a setback – and I’m sure 2020 has only compounded this feeling – there is always hope for the future.

This book will be an inspiration for the underprivileged everywhere, for generations to come.