*Becoming* by Michelle Obama

Becoming touched my heart. It made me cry, it made me laugh, and it made me remember the pride I felt in America when we came together to make something amazing happen. In an odd way, reading Becoming – a book that recounts the author’s past – renews my hope in the future. I figure if Americans can come together to elect Barack Obama for our president, we have the potential to do great things in the future, too.

Michelle Obama is a wonderful writer – a natural. Reading her book feels like sitting down at the dining room table with her and talking with her about the things that women friends talk about when they’re together – the experiences of being a daughter, a wife, a mother, and a career woman – and how we juggle all of that.

I feel like I know Michelle Obama now. Like she’s a friend. I’m so glad she’s taken the time to write Becoming and to define, herself, who she is – rather than to give that power to others.

***

“I confessed then to the Queen that my feet were hurting. She confessed that hers hurt, too. We looked at each other then with identical expressions, like, *When is all this standing around with world leaders going to finally wrap up?* And with this, she busted out with a fully charming laugh.

“Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that I’d flown to London on the presidential jet; we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“That was how we talked about bullies. When I was a kid, it was easy to grasp: Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“Everyone on earth, they’d tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I’ve been lucky enough now in my life to meet all sorts of extraordinary and accomplished people… What I’ve learned is this: All of them have had doubters. Some continue to have roaring, stadium-sized collections of critics and naysayers who will shout *I told you so* at every little misstep or mistake. The noise doesn’t go away, but the most successful people I know have figured out how to live with it, to lean on the people who believe in them, and to push onward with their goals.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“You had only to look around at the faces in the room to know that despite their strengths these girls would need to work hard to be seen…I knew they’d have to push back against the stereotypes that would get put on them, all the ways they’d be defined before they’d had a chance to define themselves. They’d need to fight the invisibility that comes with being poor, female, and of color. They’d have to work to find their voices and not be diminished, to keep themselves from getting beaten down. They would have to work just to learn.

“But their faces were hopeful, and now so was I. For me it was a strange, quiet revelation: They were me, as I’d once been. And I was them, as they could be. The energy I felt thrumming in that school had nothing to do with obstacles. It was the power of nine hundred girls striving.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“One day in San Antonio, Texas, I noticed a minor commotion in the hallway of the military hospital I was visiting. Nurses shuffled urgently in and out of the room I was about to enter. ‘He won’t stay in bed,’ I heard someone whisper. Inside, I found a broad-shouldered young man from rural Texas who had multiple injuries and whose body had been severely burned. He was in clear agony, tearing off the bedsheets and trying to slide his feet to the floor.

“It took us a minute to understand what he was doing. Despite his pain, he was trying to stand up and salute the wife of his commander in chief.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was getting worn out, not physically, but emotionally. The punches hurt, even if I understood that they had little to do with who I really was as a person. It was as if there were some cartoon version of me out there wreaking havoc, a woman I kept hearing about but didn’t know – a too-tall, too-forceful, ready-to-emasculate Godzilla of a political wife named Michelle Obama.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

“I was used to it by now – his devotion to the never-finished task of governing. For years, the girls and I had shared Barack with his constituents, and now there were more than 300 million of them. Leaving him alone in the Treaty Room at night, I wondered sometimes if they had any sense of how lucky they were.

“The last bit of work he did, usually at some hour past midnight, was to read letters from American citizens… He read letters from soldiers. From prison inmates. From cancer patients struggling to pay health-care premiums and from people who’d lost their homes to foreclosure. From gay people who hoped to be able to legally marry and from Republicans who felt he was ruining the country. From moms, grandfathers, and young children. He read letters from people who appreciated what he did and from others who wanted to let him know he was an idiot.

“He read all of it, seeing it as part of the responsibility that came with the oath. He had a hard and lonely job – the hardest and loneliest in the world, it often seemed to me – but he knew that he had an obligation to stay open, to shut nothing out. While the rest of us slept, he took down the fences and let everything inside.”
– Michelle Obama, Becoming

 

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4 thoughts on “*Becoming* by Michelle Obama

  1. I gave my wife this book for Christmas. Whenever she sees a photo of the Obamas she sighs wearily and says, “I miss them.”
    After reading the excerpts in your post I’m going to make it a point to read the book when my wife is finished.

  2. Pingback: Bits and Clips for January 2019 | Polly Castor

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