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[Review] Becoming by Michelle Obama
Narrating with the power and grace which flows throughout her memoir, Obama ensues an outpour of emotion and insight as she guides us through the course of her life with gushes of interpolations. Obama chronicles her journey beginning as a young child where the reader is invited into her home in South Side, Chicago and introduced to her close-knit family inclusive of her parents and brother, and her grandparents who live in the flat below. Seemingly ordinary, the trials and tribulations of childhood begin to creep in, and Michelle commences her odyssey of Becoming the ‘ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey’.
Nested inside her version of ‘ordinary’, Michelle grew up listening to the ‘sound of striving’ which led her to purposely crack open the shell of her South Side life and land herself at Princeton, and later at Harvard Law School. She drifts through anecdotal hurdles and gratifications that she has met during her years in education which stay by her side as loyal friends through her tumultuous life in politics and beyond. Michelle Robinson’s sturdy life in law was shaken and refracted at her meeting Barack Obama, whilst he interned at her law firm. He soon became the yin to her yang, as she describes. Detailing the true nature of ‘opposites attract’ she tells us of how this exotic and humbling man changed the course of her meticulously planned life, and eventually led her into one of the most famous addresses in the world.
We see the difficulties of balancing life as a working mother play out on a hyperbolic stage and her humble reluctance of a life under the limelight as she writes ‘I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last ten years has done little to change that.’ Michelle bares her soul on how being the first African-American FLOTUS, ‘a role without a job description’ lays out unimaginable obstacles, and subsequently, how she manoeuvers through them with the graceful elegance instilled upon her by her upbringing.
This memoir acts as a perfect nucleus to anatomise, given the myriad of topics it encourages us to examine: Race, feminism, politics, education, identity, marriage, motherhood. The movement through the three sections, Becoming ‘me’, ‘us’, ‘more’, echoes the continuity of life and the progress to the crux of her memoir which is that upon reflection, her story is what she has, what she will always have, and is ‘something to own’.
Mia is a Literature BA and Environmental Politics MA graduate. Born in Surrey, England to a British-Persian parentage, Mia is currently living in Hanoi working as an ESL teacher and has had experience in music journalism and book reviewing for online sites since first graduating University in 2016.