Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Journey to the White House



“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”     ― Michelle Obama, Becoming

Michelle Obama has led an interesting life which she reviews in this memoir covering that life up to the point where she and her husband left the White House in January, 2017. The memoir is divided into three parts describing respectively, her youth, her early life with Barack, and her time as the First Lady of the United States.

I could relate best to the first section for several reasons, in spite of the fact that she grew up in one of the largest cities in the United States. Her world was circumscribed by her family and her neighborhood until high school and even then her life continued to center on close friends and family. She studied playing the piano with her Aunt Robbie and spent free time with girl friends in her south side neighborhood. Even though I was raised in a small town in rural Wisconsin my experience was similar in many ways, studying the piano and spending time with friends and family. Her life changed dramatically when she graduated from high school and entered Princeton University.

Her brother Craig, two years her senior,  had preceded her to Princeton and led the way in a sense; much as he had in their earlier years. He was only two years older than Michelle and they had a close family relationship. Michelle was always very intelligent and excelled in academics, progressing to Harvard Law School upon graduation from Princeton. I found the first section of the memoir the most interesting and while her prose was excellent, reading  the subsequent sections I progressively loss interest in the story of her life.

Her career trajectory was intense as she joined a major law firm in Chicago upon completing her law degree. The memoir excels in providing some of the quotidian details of the life of an exceptional black woman in the last decades of the Twentieth Century. However, after she married Barack and they entered into the political arena the book seemed to become somewhat superficial in its discussion of the events of her life. For those interested in the life of a former First Lady this would be an good choice and a pleasant book to read. If you are interested in the history of the years of the woman who stood by Barack Obama's meteoric political career I would suggest you wait for the work of an objective historian.


Kathy's Corner said...

Hi James, I got Becoming as a Christmas present and have not read it yet but plan to and so thanks for your informative review. I'm toying with this plan of reading books by or about First Ladies starting with Michelle Obama and I heard Laura Bush's memoir is quite moving particularly the early years of her life. I definitely plan to read What Happened by Hillary Clinton. I think we have to face facts. Unlike the UK America isn't ready for a woman Pres so we do have the first ladies and my guess they were in many cases very interesting and complex women.

Brian Joseph said...

This book is popular! I agree that autobiography, in most cases cannot be taken as history. I look at them as almost a kind of light philosophy book where the author lays out thier views and observations on life. With all that I like Michelle Obama a lot and I think that I would enjoy this.

James said...

I hope you enjoy the read. Several of our recent First Ladies have written memoirs. While I haven't read any of those, I have read Eleanor & Franklin by Doris Kearns Goodwin and would recommend it as one of the best biographies I've ever read.

James said...

Michelle's memoir does provide some insight into her views on life, career, and raising a family. That and her years with the uber-political Barack yielded some interesting views on how to balance your lives and careers.