I heard the audiobook of Becoming on Amazon Audible, and this review is based on that experience.
Author – Michelle Obama
Available in paperback, kindle and audible versions.
Performed by–Michelle Obama
“If you don’t go out there and define yourself, you will be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.”
I had my eye on Becoming for some time now but was hesitant about picking it. I assumed (wrongly so) that the book would be all about motivation and pep talk, with no actual experiences that I could relate to. I also feared it would be a watered down, glossed over memoir to protect the optics of that time or even be a way to introduce Michelle before she declares to be running for President.
The book smashed most of my doubts pleasantly. For one, Michelle Obama’s book–Becoming is a deeply personal account of a minority woman who wishes to motivate girls around the world. I knew little about Michelle Obama, other than she was the First Lady of USA, and hence it was refreshing to know about her middle class upbringing and the initiatives that she championed while being in the White House.
The book starts with Michelle Obama describing her childhood and the way her minority middle class working parents spent everything they had in providing quality education to their children. It reminded me of my childhood and the millions of other middle-class families in India that live and work only to ensure that their children might have excellent education and better opportunities in life.
It talks about her as a person with personal ambitions and dreams. I could relate to her when she spoke about working hard and progressing on what seemed to be the right career path, only to realize some time later that it wasn’t her true calling. It talks about the fears she had when changing track in her career and wondering if she was setting herself up for failure.
Michelle Obama talks about her personal struggle as a career woman when supporting Barack Obama’s political career and managing her home and the girls single handedly when Barack Obama was a senator and was shuttling between Chicago and Springfield, Illinois.
“For me becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim but a forward motion, a means of evolving. The journey doesn’t end.”
Michelle Obama is vocal about her dislike for politics and the way it affects both personal and professional lives of those involved. She talks about the trade-off’s that she had to make as the wife of a politician and presidential candidate. She talks about the initial hesitations and finding a voice while being the First Lady of USA.
Things I loved about Becoming the audiobook
- It is genuine and comes from a right place where Michelle Obama champions equal opportunities for minorities and women. Her performance is impressive and connects instantly, maybe because it is a personal experience that she is retelling.
- Michelle does a decent job in voice modulation, and I think it was good that she did it herself instead of a professional artist as it makes it more interesting to hear it from her.
- She presents her personal side of being ambitious, a career woman, a change maker and a mother worried about her children’s safety and upbringing while in the public life.
- Michelle takes a measured and mature approach towards racism, stereotyping and preconceived notions among both minorities and whites. While she illustrates racial undertones and struggles of an African American, she also points to the mistrust and preconceived notions among African Americans against the whites.
- She opens up about her apprehensions of stepping into the limelight as a Presidential candidate’s wife, her fear of public scrutiny and the learnings that she had as she went ahead in supporting her husband.
- Michelle talks about the worries of a mother of two growing up girls while living in the White House, the intense media glare and the awkwardness of the enormous planning that came with letting her girls have a night out with friends or an ice-cream run.
- She talks about the effort it took to be politically correct and doing what she truly believed in while maintaining the optics on it.
- More than anything, the book humanizes the Obama’s and their life before and at the White House.
- I was happy to learn that as the First Lady of USA she could bring about a meaningful difference in the lives of military families and in the areas of healthy living and upbringing of children across USA.
What didn’t work for me in Becoming the book
Her version of the life at White House seems to have been reviewed by the political pundits or their PR staff before going to press. While I understand there would be a lot of things that she cannot talk about directly, the book seems to focus on optics and glossed over in some parts.
Overall I rate the book a 4.5/5
I would definitely get my daughter to hear it as there are a lot of parts in the book that I could relate to as a daughter and as a mother and would want my daughter to understand my thoughts and feelings.