Michelle Obama's companion journal to Becoming offers readers unfailing optimism, reflections for the future
Michelle Obama has earned a reputation for being a too-tall, too-forceful wife, lacking a certain grace but admirably, she takes it in her stride choosing instead to focus on what matters
Tacitly, the former FLOTUS steers clear of politics throughout the work, instead writing more about her every day experiences of living in the White House
What sets Becoming apart is her candour. Obama does not hesitate to talk about her marriage, her distaste for politics or the nagging question, am I good enough?
Becoming captures her childhood, her first brush with racism, death, competition and her upbringing that pushed her to demand more from life
Michelle Obama was once an ordinary woman, who went on to live an extraordinary life. In her 2018 memoir Becoming, she documents the highs and lows of her ride, from growing up at 7436 Euclid Avenue in South Side Chicago, to taking up residence at the White House. Following the phenomenal success of this book, Obama is now set to release a companion journal to the book filled with 150 inspirational questions and quotes that reflect the key themes in her story.
Obama is not the first ‘First Lady’ to publish a memoir; however as a review in The New Yorker suggests, ‘Obama’s was expected to be something different: she had more in common with Alice Walker than with Nancy Reagan, after all.’ And she delivers.
What sets Becoming apart is the writer’s candour. Obama does not hesitate to talk about her marriage, her distaste for politics or the nagging question marked by self-doubt, ‘Am I good enough?’ Simultaneously, she unabashedly embraces her identity in complaining about domestic trifles or questioning her life’s choices. Her writing is keen, sharp, modern and resonates with scores of women across the world struggling with similar dilemmas.
Her latest project then, scheduled to release on 19 November is titled, Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, and is designed to ‘help readers reflect on their personal and family history, their goals, challenges, and dreams, what moves them and brings them hope, and what future they imagine for themselves and their community.’ In her introduction to the journal, Obama writes, “We don’t have to remember everything. But everything we remember has value.” It is this particular flavour of unfailing optimism found in her memoir as well that makes it a refreshing read.
But beyond that, why is the former FLOTUS’ work an important piece of writing? Why is it crucial for every woman to have a copy of the memoir on her bookshelf? Obama’s story, much like everyone else’s, is a series of choices. Becoming captures her childhood, her first brush with racism, death, competition, her swarm of girlfriends and her upbringing that pushed her to demand more from life. At every step, there was a decision to be made. Swapping a job as a hotshot Harvard-educated lawyer for community work, or investing countless study hours to get into Princeton to prove that she was ‘Princeton material’, everything involved a series of conscious decisions that would shape her identity.
She writes, “If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you’ll be quickly and inaccurately defined by others.” Every woman has a similar choice: to continue living in the system that she is born into or to step out and claim her place in the world. And make no mistake, Obama promises that this is not an easy task.
But what she does do is enunciate the power of education and hard work to consciously effect change. She writes gravely about the increasing gang violence in the predominantly African-American community in South Side Chicago and rising instances of gun violence among teenagers. All the while aware that change will not happen overnight, she advises children to reap, in full, the benefits of school, emphasising on the role of education in building a better life.
Tacitly, the former FLOTUS steers clear of her husband’s politics throughout the work, instead writing more about her every day experiences of living in the White House – raising two little girls, looking after her dogs and her garden, while checking in with the Secret Service for an all-clear. The larger message of all these recurring, somewhat monotonous anecdotes is the same: make the most of your situation and you will always find a way to make things better.
Obama has earned a reputation for being a too-tall, too-forceful wife, lacking a certain grace but admirably, she takes it in her stride, choosing instead to focus on what matters. Determined to be more than just the wife of POTUS, she writes about trying to chalk out a set of definite goals and doing her duty with her dignity intact. Told with a no-nonsense tone, her memoir has become a call especially to women young and old, asking them to raise their voice, and if given a platform, to make the most of it.
There is strength in Obama’s story and wisdom too, even when she is found knee-deep in the mud gardening with children or trying to escape the White House to look at the pride colours, her words ringing clear and true: “It is not about being perfect. It is not about where you get yourself in the end. 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.”
Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice is now available for pre-order.
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