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Review

“Becoming”

Michelle Obama

I really wasn’t sure what to expect, going in to this book. I’m not a big memoir person, and it did take me a while to really get into the book, but I’m glad I stuck with it.

I think the most useful takeaway for me, from this book, is that it humanized Michelle. It’s easy to look at the occupants of the White House and think of them as these far-off figures, something akin to demigods for how remote their lives are from mine. Which remains true—the experience of living in the White House is so different from any aspect of my life I can barely imagine it—but we are all only human.

What I enjoyed the most was hearing about the limitations that come with it. It’s one thing to fantasize about it: “imagine being part of the First Family, you get to meet so many interesting people and be so close to history as it’s happening!”1 But the reality is motorcades and secret service escorts. Knowing that any time you want to go out for dinner, you’re causing traffic jams and costing the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in additional security costs. Even something as simple as “I’m going to sit on the balcony to drink my morning tea” becomes a mess—because, as Michelle notes, sitting on the balcony for her meant the Secret Service closing off a nearby street from which the balcony was visible. You can’t use a portion of your home without it disrupting the lives of hundreds of other people.

Michelle’s story is inspiring, and tragic, and delightful; it is entirely, perfectly human. I absolutely loved this book, and highly recommend it—even to my fellow “not a big memoir” people. Give it a read.2

  1. I’ve long since abandoned the dream of the Presidency. Being responsible for the entirety of the United States sounds like a special circle of hell, and no amount of escapist fantasy can paper over the sheer, staggering, impossible weight that the President has to bear.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.

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