• Hannah Cartwright

Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama




For me, a good book is one you can’t put down. You spend evening after evening curled up on the sofa with endless amounts of teas and coffees, happily devouring every last page. The book comes everywhere with you, in case you can steal a couple more moments alone to read. When you’re not reading, you’re thinking about the book and what’s going to happen when you next pick it up. But for me, an even better book is one that keeps you sat on that sofa into the early hours of the morning, the cup of tea next to you cold and long forgotten. You’re perching on the edge of the sofa, promising yourself that you’ll put the book down soon, at the end of the page, the next page, the next chapter. Soon. There’s an eerie silence upon the house as everyone else went to bed hours ago unnoticed by you, leaving you to enjoy the world currently placed between your hands. This was exactly how I read Becoming by Michelle Obama.

I could write pages and pages of all of the things I loved about this book. I spent every opportunity I could reading it, although it still took me almost two weeks to finish it – which for me is quite a long time for a book I’m really enjoying. I think that the reason it took me so long is that I found myself pausing so often – thinking about what I had just read; re-reading sections; flicking back to the middle of the book to match the text to the photographs. I also stopped often to re-read sections I’d found interesting to whoever was in the room at the time - usually Ben (who actually may never have to read the book now that I’ve basically relayed half of it to him!) I don’t think there was a single page in the whole book that didn’t teach me something new.

The writing of the book alone is one of the aspects that really stood out to me. The content was fascinating and a glimpse into worlds so far from my own. But the way this was articulated by Michelle was incredible, leaving me hanging onto every single word. She knows when to leave a point alone, to let her statements breathe, really allowing them to sink into the minds of her readers. I found myself eager to get to the ends of paragraphs and chapters because often those last sentences were the most loaded, and what stopped me from putting the book down, even for a moment.

For me, the book displayed the personality and important life of a woman that I had previously only thought of as ‘Obama’s Wife.’ I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought this prior to reading the book, and I’m sure to many more she will still always remain ‘Obama’s Wife.’ Sometimes it’s far too easy to distance ourselves from the news articles and the media and forget that the people we are seeing are real. They had lives before this. They were children learning to navigate themselves through school. Then they were adults learning to navigate their way through a career. Then all of a sudden, they’re the First Lady, wife of the first black President of the United States of America, learning to navigate themselves through something very few people can ever experience. Learning how much Michelle gave up of her own life and career to further her husband's, I felt despondent that this wasn’t a point of focus in the media. She worked so hard for everything in her life, and within a year was reduced down to being someone’s wife. However, this didn’t stop her working hard at the things she believed in. This hard work and determination is a strong focus of the book from the offset. Through her school life, career, and family life, Michelle shows her readers that hard work pays off. Possibly an even more important lesson to her readers is that it is more than okay to ask for help when you need it. Michelle has a strong team around her who she can’t praise highly enough for their help in all aspects of her life, particularly the women. She never claims to be better than anyone and always notes the strengths of others before her own.

The level of honesty with which Michelle writes is also another aspect of the book to marvel at, in particular with how she discusses family life. She addresses her concerns with her marriage to Barack so openly and honestly, which really serves to remind the reader that status, wealth, and power don’t change anything. The little things like finding your partner’s dirty socks on the floor are still going to infuriate you! I also really admired the way in which Michelle talked about Trump taking over from Barack. It was clear that this wasn’t a decision which best pleased her, but she handled it and discussed it with dignity. There was no slandering of Trump or name calling and no outright bitterness. Her distaste was reflected through her actions rather than her words, a powerful statement in itself.

This book was an incredible and powerful read. I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Click here to read more book reviews from Written by Han!

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