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Summary and book reviews of Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama X
Becoming by Michelle Obama
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  • Published:
    Nov 2018, 400 pages

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Book Summary

Winner of the 2019 BookBrowse Nonfiction Award

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America - the first African-American to serve in that role - she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her - from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world's most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it - in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations - and whose story inspires us to do the same.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
"I'm an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why." - MICHELLE OBAMA

  1. Mrs. Obama begins her book with a story about making cheese toast on a quiet night at home, a few months after leaving the White House. Why do you think she chose this story to begin her memoir?
  2. Mrs. Robinson is the opposite of a helicopter parent. She was tough and had very high expectations for her children, and she also expected them to figure some things out on their own and learn from their missteps and the process of making choices. She gave her children agency at a very young age. How did that shape Mrs. Obama? ...
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Here are some of the comments posted about Becoming.
You can see the full discussion here.


Becoming
I am half way through and enjoying it more than ever. She is a great writer and her writing appears sincere and genuine much as I imagine her to be (I've never met her but sure would!). Some parts of her story sound so much like mine. I understood ... - robinb

Have you ever "swerved" in your career or personal life, and if so, did you know you were making a radical or life-altering decision at the time?
I’ve swerved so many times during my life that thinking about my many choices and changes I almost feel dizzy! I believe every time there is even the slightest consideration to make another choice is a revision to a person’s life. With more thought I... - Suzanne

Have you, like Mrs. Obama, had moments in life where you felt as though you were representing one of your communities?
I have been in that situation and it felt vey daunting. I had to straddle my own self vs. not wanting to perpetuate any stereotypes. I wanted to fight preconceived notions while not getting angry or frustrated with people who believe such ideas. It ... - ruthiea

How did America's contradictions play out in the lives of the students at Harper High School? What are the barriers to ending gun violence? Are they surmountable?
If gun legislation was not passed after Sandy Hook, it will never be in my opinion. The gun lobby is too strong and politicians (even in the small town where I live) take money from the NRA. When politicians stop accepting money and toadying to the... - joannev

How did Barack Obama's sense of purpose affect their life as a married couple? Do you have someone in your life who supports or shares your own sense of purpose?
I agree with all the above posts, especially with how her strength and her value of doing for others allowed her, and her marriage to survive everything her husband through in her path. Although her husband always seemed to say he wouldn't do X if ... - ruthiea

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    BookBrowse Awards
    2019

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

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I could not have loved this book more than I did. It was presented in such a way that when I was finished, I felt I had full knowledge of what made Michelle tick (Carol R). It was like meeting a new friend and over time getting to know her through revelations of the stages of her life. It was easy and still thought-provoking (katherinep). I love Michelle Obama and I loved her book. She is a class act and it came through in her writing (djn). I found her memoir astounding. She writes with such honesty, passion, and love (barbarae). This is a fabulous, informative and uplifting book. I always had a good impression of Michelle Obama and this book enhanced it. I felt that Michelle really shared herself with her readers and offered an intimate look at her life (Lois I)...continued

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(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Media Reviews

Entertainment Weekly - David Canfield
Becoming arrives like a glass bottle of decency, preserved from a nationwide garbage fire. This is a straightforward, at times rather dry autobiography from a major public figure that stands in remarkably sharp contrast to the state of our discourse — starting with the man in the White House. Yet that contrast isn’t derived from Obama’s scathing commentary on Donald Trump, which is both brief and somewhat expected, but rather, from the rest — as in, the vast majority — of Becoming, which describes one woman’s growth from the South Side of Chicago to First Lady of the United States, through tales of empowerment and overcoming adversity. Rating: B

New York Times - Jennifer Szalai
For all the attempts by conservatives a decade ago to paint her as a radical, Obama seems to be a measured, methodical centrist at heart. But hers isn’t a wan faith in expanding the pie and crossing the aisle. Her pragmatism is tougher than that, even if it will come across as especially frustrating to those who believe that centrism and civility are no longer enough. As she writes in Becoming, she long ago learned to recognize the “universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go."

The Guardian - Afua Hirsch
It’s hard to be cynical about either Obama’s strength of character or her authenticity. Her book confirms what was observable about her time in the White House, that while she may have had to shape herself into the mould of what politics requires of a first lady, it was still a first lady-shaped version of something real. Her genuine dislike for politics is hard to avoid, in a book rooted in a high moral ground above insults and mudslinging, the political process itself seems the only thing she allows herself to freely insult.

Publishers Weekly
There are no dramatic revelations and not much overt politics here, but fans of the Obamas will find an interesting, inspiring saga of quiet social revolutions.

Kirkus Reviews
"Starred Review. An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like."

Reader Reviews

CarolT

Pleasantly surprised
By the time my name came up to get this from the library, I was more than a little burned out on political autobiographies, so started this half-heartedly. Boy was I wrong. This really is a page turner. I expected Obama to write well (yes, I know she...   Read More

Sandi W.

"I'm an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey."
I was very pleased with this book. I felt that Michelle (who made you feel like you were her friend) did a wonderful job of telling her truth. She told of her aspirations, along with her fears. She did not hesitate to spell out her doubts and ...   Read More

Jennifer Hinrichs

Great
Very inspiring!

Pam Aylmer

Motherhood in a storm
She is candid and talks about her struggles to protect her girls from papparazi, and surprisingly, to buffer them from the intrusive Secret Service. I'd never considered how it would feel to have SS men shadowing me everywhere--she was inventive and ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Memoirs by First Ladies

Covers of memoirs by First LadiesMichelle Obama's memoir Becoming has been a huge success by all standards, and she joins a long and illustrious list of former First Ladies who have written memoirs. The appeal is obvious: who wouldn't want to know more about the women who've stood beside the President of the United States, acting as confidant, support system, and unofficial advisor? And in many cases, as with Mrs. Obama, First Ladies have been tremendously popular, bright, and accomplished in their own right. Since Betty Ford, each First Lady has written at least one memoir following her time in the White House, but the tradition goes back quite a bit further in history.

With the help of her son Frederick, Julia Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant, began penning her ...

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