BECOMING is the Most Important Book You Will Read This Year


Anna Hayward, Writer

“I was humbled and excited to be First Lady, but not for one second did I think I’d be sliding into some glamorous, easy role. Nobody who has the words ‘first’ and ‘black’ attached to them ever would. I stood at the foot of the mountain, knowing I’d need to climb my way into favor.”

Michelle Obama’s autobiography Becoming comes at a time when our country is more divided than ever. Yet her recounting of her younger life as well as her years in the White House coupled with her hopeful, buoyant writing show how our country can be united once again. In Becoming, Obama describes her early family life and schooling and how this has affected her. She was brought up in the South Side of Chicago, remembering her youth with nostalgia and telling the reader of the lessons she learned early on.

As she was growing up, she noticed her town becoming whiter. Racial discrimination was more common, and as the Obamas gained popularity, reporters and the media weaponized her race and gender against her. Michelle is a woman who has been criticized for everything from wearing a sleeveless dress to being called an “angry black woman.” Through all of this, she supported Barack throughout his political endeavors but had to find ways to strike a balance between helping her husband on the campaign trail, working herself, and caring for their two young daughters.

Perhaps it is the passages about her hectic schedule that normalize and humanize the Obamas the most. Michelle writes about her life with refreshing honesty and clarity. She talks about her experience in the White House plainly, recognizing the ways in which her family stayed the same as well as the ways they changed drastically. Personal chefs, constant security, and the inability to open a window due to the threat of bullets coming through were just some of the new normals the Obama family got used to. Michelle tells the truth of what it was really like living in the White House: the annoyances, the pros and cons, the sacrifices she had to make. She describes the intricacies of being some of the most protected people in the world…Malia’s heavily guarded send-off to prom, for example.

The biggest theme of Becoming is neither directly related to the color of Michelle Obama’s skin, nor is it a lesson from politics in general. It is a simple one, nothing more than the unity and strength she was known for projecting during Barack’s presidency. Hate and fear will always keep us apart; however, hope and warmth are the things that can stitch us back together.

“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same… There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This,  for me, is how we become.”

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