I couldn’t wait for Christmas to read Becoming by Michelle Obama and delighted in spending every spare minute in the first week of December enjoying it. It is a riveting read, particular if you enjoy a good political autobiography like I do (see my blogs on What Happened, Hard Choices, My Story, and Reading Politics). For me, there’s nothing like getting a glimpse inside the corridors of power from the personal perspective of the people who have made history.
Becoming certainly didn’t disappoint. The most interesting part for me was about Michelle Obama’s early life – her working-class upbringing on the south side of Chicago and how she made it to Princeton against the odds, and thanks to the people that were there to support her along the way.
The love story of how she met Barack was also sweet to read. Two such different people colliding shook her out of a tendency to want to be in control of the details and meant she had to come to the realisation that she needed to go all-in to being swept up with her daughters on the tide of history. She is refreshingly candid about her struggle to conceive and their use of IVF, as well as about going for couple’s counselling and how it helped the Obamas to resolve their differences and to find a more harmonious existence, dealing with the pressures of work, parenthood and politics.
The book speeds up once Barack is elected to Congress, runs for President and then becomes America’s first black Commander in Chief, echoing the speeding up of life that Michelle clearly experienced herself. There are fascinating glimpses behind the scenes on the campaign trail and then, even more fascinatingly, behind the scenes of daily life in the White House. Her story covers the little things, like not being allowed to open the windows, to bigger things, like her children having travel to school in bulletproof motorcades, and to the really big things, like the impact she was able to make as First Lady on the issue of childhood obesity.
I was left wanting more detail on the politics, the policies and on her everyday life in the White House. I hope this is not the last we see of Michelle Obama on the global stage. She is extremely clear that she will never run for public office herself, but I hope she will consider another global role – we need Feminists like Michelle in positions of power in today’s world.