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

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.
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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 feel like most of my adult life has been swerves because I grew up with immigrant parents, who had a major swerve when they came to this country, and they tried to keep me from not swerving!. I married a man who also emigrated when he was young and... - Mira

Have you, like Mrs. Obama, had moments in life where you felt as though you were representing one of your communities?
Certainly not to the extent that Michelle Obama has. As the eldest, I have felt a role model for my siblings and, later in my professional life, for my colleagues. But those are relatively small populations compared to Obama representing almost an ... - paulak

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?
After Sandy Hook, I was stunned and very discouraged when gun legislation did not pass. I saw many more horrible massacres in the years since. It hit closer to home last year because I live very near Parkland. I believe that sensible and significant ... - dorothyl

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?
In the beginning, Michelle had to struggle to adjust to his sense of purpose. Though she never uses the word resentment, that I can remember, she felt the burden of being alone with the girls. Even more, in some ways, was her desire to carry on with ... - katherinep

How did Fraser and Marian Robinson's parenting strategy influence Mrs. Obama? Is it better to be honest with children, or to shield them?
I think the Robinson's gave Michelle her wings. Talking to Michelle and Craig with honesty and solid values instilled leadership and values in Michelle. She understood her limitations, but pushed through the ones that weren't tied to income. She ... - terriej

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Reviews

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

Sheila Anthony

Tells it like it is
Having been there myself, I recommend this marvelous book to any spouse of a political or government worker, and to anyone who wants to know what it’s like. The wind blows coldest at the top of the mountain, and Mrs. Obama tells it like it is. I ...   Read More

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Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Becoming
by Michelle Obama

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

About the book
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