- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Viking (13 November 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0241334144
- ISBN-13: 978-0241334140
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4 x 24 cm
- Customer Reviews: 10,784 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #97 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Becoming: Now a Major Netflix Documentary Hardcover – 13 November 2018
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Obama's memoir is a genuine page-turner, full of intimacies and reflections. . . Allied to this candour is a steeliness of purpose. It is no exaggeration to say that every page of this book is, explicitly or otherwise, a reproach to Donald Trump, and a call-to-arms to those who would defeat the 45th President and all that he stands for -- Matt D'Ancona, Evening Standard
This is a rich, entertaining and candid memoir. And overall she's a fun person to sit alongside as she tells you the story of her life, warts and all. . . it is as beautifully written as any piece of fiction, with a similar warm languid tone to Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth -- Viv Groskop, i, Five Stars
This revealing memoir offers new insights into her upbringing on the south side of Chicago and the highs and lows of life with Barack Obama. . . Becoming is a 400-page expansion of this essential doctrine ['when they go low, we go high'], without compromising a refreshing level of honesty about what politics really did to her. I have read Barack Obama's two books so far, and this is like inserting a missing piece of reality into the narrative of his dizzying journey -- Afua Hirsch, Guardian
I found myself lifting my jaw from my chest at the end of every other chapter, not because of any seedy insight into stories I'd always wondered about, but because, armed as I was with knowledge about her career, her mannerisms, and even her elbow-heavy dancing, this was not the Obama I thought I knew. She was more -- Kuba Shand-Baptiste, Independent
Inspiring. . . After 421 pages of Becoming, I closed the book hoping that one day she would use her formidable intelligence, humanity - and humour - to offer a more tangible vision for how America might fight the rising tides of polarisation and hate, Financial Times
Open and engaging. . . Obama writes with candour about the good times and bad., Daily Express
Of course, Becoming is Michelle Obama's story, of how she moved from a girl on the South Side of Chicago to becoming one of the most powerful women in the world. But in the final pages of the book, Obama writes, "It's all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor." Here, Obama is pushing us to reckon with our own becomings - to realise our own story and to have the power to tell it., The Pool
She's a woman we've all fallen in love with because she radiates joy and wisdom, and Becoming encapsulate this perfectly. It's also deeply honest - reading it makes you feel as though she's your close friend opening up to you, Red Online
Obama writes with a refreshing candor, The Atlantic
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I am a fan of team Obama. I have seen all possible YouTube videos of them; speeches, campaign footage, interviews, dances, karaoke performances, dinners, street interactions; I follow them on social media and a couple of years back I read Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama which was quite insightful as well. Despite these impressions already formed, this book made me admire and respect them even more.
In her memoir, Michelle Obama talks about the experiences in her life that made her what she is. How she became.
While political experiences are obviously a part of her narration, she does not write about politics or advocate a side. Instead, she writes about values, people, reactions, thoughts. It is really a mesmerizing story about a remarkable woman. Her not-so-privileged childhood, her struggle to balance work and motherhood and her life as the First Lady. She writes about the achievements and failures in all aspects of her life. She talks about larger issues like discrimination as well as the supposedly little things like family and love which make a difference. Surprisingly, it is relatable.
The writing is eloquent, honest and simple. It feels intimate and warm. It is a story of a woman of character and strength.
Some might say that good PR will ensure that this is how she is projected. I say. Read the book for the writing, the inspiration that comes from it. It is a book that should be read by every generation to know that anything is possible. That you must own your story. That you matter.
I am neither American, nor of color, nor (God forbid) will I ever be involved in any political activities. Yet, like all my friends who have read “Becoming”, I am completely charmed by it, and by Michelle Obama. A lot has been said about the book and its appeal. You just cannot finish this book and just forget it; her story will probably stay with you for life. I would like to add my own little inputs below (in no particular order) as to why this book was one of the most wonderful books that I read this year (or any year), and why, like millions of people around the world, I find Michelle Obama’s story so powerful and uplifting.
“Your story is what you have…It is something to own”
A book can be beautifully written, but I don’t really care for it if it doesn’t touch my heart. And Becoming was a very, very emotional read. Here we have a lady who has lived in the White House for eight years, and who speaks with such pride and love about her working class parents, the cramped little apartment she spent her happy childhood in, in the poorer section of Chicago, about her relatives, all blue-collared, like her parents. This is who I am, she says, this my story. “I had nothing or I had everything. It depends on which way you want to tell it”. We can think of many women in her position who would perhaps underplay their background, hide some of the facts, but not a strong, direct, honest woman like her. It is this humility, the pride and the self-respect with which she shares her background with the rest of the world, which will touch you to the core.
“…they (my friends in South Chicago), like me, were descended from slaves”
Like Michelle points out, repeatedly, let us not forget for a minute her roots – that not too long ago, her forefathers were working as slaves in a country they were forcefully brought to, loaded like animals onto ships from Africa. “I was the great-great-granddaughter of a slave named Jim Robinson, who was probably buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on a South Carolina plantation”.
America might have got its first black President, but – a century and a half after the Civil War of 1865, and more than half a century after the Civil Rights Act of 1961 - racial discrimination is still alive and kicking in that country.
“I carried a history with me, and it wasn’t that of presidents of First Ladies…The struggles of Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King were more familiar to me than that of Eleanor Roosevelt or Mamie Eisenhower”. Yes, I had to Google Rosa Parks, and Coretta King, and if the names are not familiar to you, I suggest you do so as well, to understand what a long journey the Obamas have undertaken, and what she refers to as the “push and pull” of history.
Her description of her Uncle Terry, who had once been a Pullman porter, is particularly poignant, and will go straight to your heart “Years after retirement, Terry still lived in a state of numbed formality – impeccably dressed, remotely servile, never asserting himself in any way…It was as if he’d surrendered a part of himself as a way of coping”. I didn’t know what a Pullman porter was, and I again had to Google it. What I read had me in tears. It was too late for Uncle Terry, but not for the next generation of African-Americans, and not for his brave, intelligent, hardworking niece and nephew.
The power of education, or “I will show you “
Michelle reached where she did through sheer hard work and intelligence, and an enormous desire to make something of herself in life. This is perhaps the only right way to “become” what you want to be. “Education had been the primary instrument of change in my own life, my lever upward in the world”. “Strive” is an important word in Ms. Obama’s dictionary – perhaps the most important.
Every schoolgirl (or boy) should be encouraged to read this book, because the lessons it impart are invaluable. It is also a book for parents to read, for the way in which Michelle and her brother were brought up by their parents is inspirational. Their parents treated them like adults, encouraged them to take their own decisions, and constantly reiterated that – “you belong. You matter. I think highly of you.”
A yin-and-yang duo
In Becoming, we gain a whole new perspective of Barack Obama; not the president, but the boyfriend, husband, father and son. We meet a man who is least interested in the rat race, or in any material trappings. What excites him, and what he is passionate about are books and ideas, especially ideas to make the world a better place - “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”. Unlike Michelle, he is “hardwired for optimism”, and while she is a detail person, a box-checker, Barack is quite at home with “the unruliness of the world”. It was clear early on their relationship that “We were built differently”. Yet their relationship thrived, and when Barack’s aspirations became clear, she supported him, not because she thought he would win (“Barack was a black man in America…. I really didn’t think he could win”), but because she loved him. The rest is, of course, history.
The end of Obama’s term, and the next occupant
When she walks out (almost with relief, it seems) of the “most famous address” in the world, she begins a fresh journey – all over again. And that, perhaps, is what awes you and touches you most about her – that she doesn’t let her years as the FLOTUS define her, or restrict her in any way. While being a loving, supportive wife and mother, she could never be JUST Mrs. Obama, the wife of arguably the most powerful man in the world. She was, and will always be, a person in her own right. A person who has strived all her life, and will continue to strive, to be the best she can be - constantly evolving, constantly reinventing herself.
The White House was definitely not the end of the road for her – “you are left in many ways to find yourself again”. As is her nature, she makes no bones about the current occupant of the White House, expressing her opinion in a direct, upfront manner. “..we were up against a bully, a man who among other things demeaned minorities and expressed contempt for POWs, challenging the dignity of our country with practically every utterance”.
“Becoming” is about Michelle’s childhood, her Ivy league education, her career, her abiding love for her husband and children and her country, her years at the White house, but above all, it is about a woman who steadfastly holds on to her identity in spite of being married to the most powerful man in the world. She was never a “missus defined by her mister”,
“At 54, I am still in progress, and I hope that I always will be”.
It’s people like the Obamas who make America great. Not the bullies who are currently in power – they take America back to the dark ages. That, at least is my view; your views may be different – but hey, it’s a free world, isn’t it?
Please hit the like button if you liked my review. It feels so good to know that there are people who are reading my reviews, and who believe in a better and fairer world. Thank you.
Could this family do anything wrong? It's not luck, it all boils down to immense research and learning and connecting to one's own belief and dream.
Top international reviews
While most political memoirs detail behind-the-scene, make-or-break deals, this book details the impact smaller actions can have on the local level. A very useful and timely reminder for those overwhelmed by the daily scourge of bad news.
As much as we may not like it or agree with it, political office holders normally pave the way for their successors (whether they intend to or not). Obama's choices paved the way for Trump to campaign and to win the Presidency, much like G W Bush's choices paved the way for Obama. Michelle is content to not interpret the results, but bash some of the electorate for not voting for a woman and for voting for someone she describes in insults. For a family that is normally revered for deep analysis of complicated issues, Michelle's writing style and choice of words on this was very disappointing and in my opinion, narrow-minded. Michelle comes across as believing America was best and meaningful when her husband was it's President. She has a hard time seeming to come to terms with the fact that people might make different choices or that she and her husband will have to leave behind the mantle of being responsible for the nation, in their respective areas.
It was a disappointing and short handed book in my mind. Fans of the Obama's will find much to enjoy, I am sure. But those who enjoy deep analysis of history, will be disappointed. I hope that Barrack's book will be more insightful and deeper (The Case for the Defense - Part 2).
The photos chosen to illustrate her book reflect a similar balance of family and political life, and many of the informal shots have a real sense of love shining out at the reader, which I found very moving. My only gripe is the four (yes, really) pages of acknowledgements she makes, where she really seems to lose her ability to be selective. However, that's a tiny moan within a very impressive and moving testament. It does give you hope, especially in our increasingly blinkered & bigoted world.
She doesn't shy away from the truth of her life, or the truth of her feelings.
Could not put the book down and found myself thinking about it even as I worked.
It’s essentially all about creating our own life based on your own values rather than living up to the expectations of others. Yet the amazing thing is that she gave up a great career opportunity to support her man which in turn drove her into one of the most controversial roles; that of First Lady - that merely dresses well, shows up at public events and that diligently supports her husband. Yet as we all know, Michelle broke with most protocol in a gracious manner and gave it her own twist. And by doing so she took the top spot among female icons of this century.
Other than I feared the book is not overly political, in fact she dislikes politics, albeit there are a few sneers at former president Bush.
I got the hard cover of the book that although a bit bulky to carry around displays well.