Grace And Gravitas
Michelle Obama’s Becoming is a deeply intimate, inspiring memoir that encompasses her life as the first African-American First Lady.By Sumi Thomas
If there is a woman whose life has resonated with millions of women across the world and whom many look up to as a living icon, Michelle Obama fits the bill. A self-accomplished woman, she is also a First Lady who becomes an enigmatic example of the strength of ‘soft power’. Which can probably be seen best in her commitment to growing a vegetable garden at the White House—an act that at once endeared her to housewives across the country, and which she used as a starting point to talk to the country about the alarming and rising incidence of obesity, and ways to counter this malaise.
A warm and lively woman, Michelle chronicles her life in downright honest detail, writing about her trials and triumphs with equal conviction and humor. She describes her childhood in Chicago, her working years when she balanced both motherhood and career, and of course, the famed White House years with wit and elegance. She writes in detail about her relationship with Barack Obama, and while this involves describing her unflinching loyalty to him, she does not hesitate to talk about their disparate personalities, which end up complementing each other. She also writes about the moments when she lost her patience, like when Barack would be so caught up with his work that the family became a blip on his horizon and her struggles with in-vitro fertilization, which, sometimes, she had to endure all alone.
Her commentary on her life also includes the story of her two young daughters, who, for all their time in the White House and the attendant public attention during and after the presidential campaigns, still turn out to be remarkably levelheaded and down-to-earth. She also writes candidly about the “American gaze,” stating, “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.” This candor, however, is slightly toned down in the part where she describes life in the White House, but in some places still quite hard-hitting, like in an earlier quote of hers: “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” Her tone of wry humor, her intelligent wit, and informal persona pervade the book and make for a book that you can curl up with on the couch, a cup of hot chocolate or a yummy snack in hand. Just as Michelle herself does in one instance, in her post-White House days, forgetting everything else but the joy of biting into some cheesy yumminess on her verandah.