Obama emphasizes how important role models are, especially for young women of color in a culture that isn’t changing fast enough. But this book isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. By the end of it, she ultimately champions endurance and incremental change; she will probably be lauded and lambasted accordingly ... it’s the moments when Obama tries to make sense of what she’s seeing now, in the country, that are among the most moving—if only because she’s so clearly struggling to reconcile the cleareyed realism of her upbringing, brought about by necessity, with the glamorous, previously unthinkable life she has today ... 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 first-lady memoir is a rite of passage, but Obama's is different by virtue of her very identity. Becoming takes her historic status as the first black woman to serve as first lady and melds it deftly into the American narrative ... her memoir is not a Washington read full of gossip and political score-settling—though she does lay bare her deep, quaking disdain for Trump, who she believes put her family's safety at risk with his vehement promotion of the false birther conspiracy theory ... Inevitably, her memoir will be compared to those of other first ladies. Her focus on owning one’s own unique story sets her book apart, but it is similar to Laura Bush's in one respect. Both women most deeply excavate the part of their life before the presidency enters.
This isn’t a rushed account aimed to fulfill a fat publishing contract or settle scores or provide uplift (though it does). Every page sparkles with directness and grace. She writes compellingly of the complexities of marriage and family with honesty and the kind of confidence that comes of being a person of integrity who knows who she is—and is comfortable with it. Like its author, Becoming’ is a work of solid worth ... Not that Becoming’ is Trump obsessed or gloomy (though her mournful remembrances of the Newtown, Conn., Charleston, S.C., and Orlando, Fla., massacres are haunting). Her grief and grievances never overwhelm. Many pages are filled with fun bits about Carpool Karaoke with James Corden, Nerf dunking with LeBron James, and discussing women’s shoes with Queen Elizabeth II.
What fascinates throughout her 426-page book is the extent of [the Obama's] differences ... The first section, about [Obama's] childhood, is written with the clarity and descriptive power of a novel. I was riveted by the detail and family dynamics ... [Obama] is refreshingly frank about her shortcomings, including her inability to swerve from the appointed path. However, it is when Barack enters the picture that she starts to pull some punches here ... This is a vivid and interesting account and all of that is to her credit. I certainly thought better of her by the end: she has put her heart into this.
Becoming is a warm, intimate coming-of-age story of a strong-minded girl who grew up to become one of the most powerful and influential black women in the country. It is filled with determination, love of family and many subtle and not-so-subtle lessons about being female, black, and black and female in America. She talks openly about things that many people are uncomfortable discussing ... The most interesting part of the book is the first half, about growing up in Chicago ... More interesting than the politics are the details of life in the White House, where she couldn’t even open a window (bulletproof thick and sealed shut for protection) and where sneaky incognito trips to PetSmart and Target make her feel, briefly, free.
[Becoming] is really two books in one, the first half detail-oriented and warm, the second starched and broad-brushed ... But [Obama's] candor dissipates once we get past the reeling first year in the White House, where she knew that her 'grace would have to be earned.' The summary of Obama’s White House initiatives relies on promotional language and well-worn anecdotes, and the book’s final pages are just a shade away from an overt advertisement for the Obama Foundation. The memoir’s 'bombshell' revelations, which the media has projected as revelations of the female condition writ large—a discussion of Obama’s use of fertility treatment to conceive her daughters, and of a period of her marriage in which 'frustrations began to rear up often and intensely'—belie how much the rest of the text withholds.
The book, aptly titled Becoming, offers a sometimes surprisingly intimate look at the life of the former first lady, born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson ... Obama writes with a refreshing candor, as though her keen awareness of her celebrity is matched only by her eagerness to shed the exhausting veneer that helped enable her husband’s political rise ... Becoming is at its most striking when it offers readers a glimpse at the preternaturally composed former first lady’s moments of fear and frustration ... Becoming is still a political memoir; it functions partly to solidify Barack Obama’s legacy as a complex and multilayered milestone for the country. The book makes the case for the Obama family as definitively American, for Michelle Obama’s concerns as worries that derive from the universal anxieties of marriage and motherhood. Still, Becoming is satisfying for the quiet moments in which Mrs. Obama, the woman who supported a black man named Barack all the way to the presidency, gets to let down her hair and breathe as Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, girl of the South Side.
...crackles with blunt, often searing observations about politics, race and gender in America ... She is unsparing in her criticism of her husband’s successor, and she takes aim at Trump’s racist rhetoric and his years of falsely insisting that Barack was not born in the United States ... Throughout Becoming, Obama strikes an impressive balance in telling the truth of her challenges while repeatedly acknowledging her lucky life .
Becoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny, with a humbler tone and less name-dropping than might be expected of one who is on chatting terms with the queen of England. One of Obama’s strengths is her ability to look back not from the high perch of celebrity or with the inevitability of hindsight but with the anxieties of the uncertain ... Even though we all know that she and Barack Obama end up getting married and having two kids, that he wins the 2008 Iowa caucuses and that they make it to the White House, she never takes any of it for granted. On the contrary, her tone is one of wonderment as to how this all happened. This gives the book’s first half, in particular, covering the part of her life we know least about, an unexpected suspense ... One of the great gifts of Obama’s book is her loving and frank bearing-witness to the lived experiences of the black working class, the invisible people who don’t make the evening news and whom not enough of us choose to see.
Michelle Obama manages to be inspirational, direct and naive about race and gender politics ... Working twice as hard, only to receive a double portion of disrespect, Obama chooses to focus on the victories: passage of the Affordable Care Act; nearly five years of job growth; the right of same-sex couples to marry; and the soft power she seized as FLOTUS to launch initiatives to fight childhood obesity, encourage students to get to and stay in college, and support job training and employment for veterans and their spouses ... Obama recounts personal triumphs, particularly raising Malia and Sasha to be independent, to give them as normal a childhood as possible, even as cellphones and social media exposed them to never-before-seen scrutiny.
Becoming is a 400-page expansion of this essential doctrine, without compromising a refreshing level of honestly about what politics really did to her ... There are compelling insights into the sorrow of miscarriage, the loneliness of living with a man whose sense of purpose often left little room for anything else, prompting her to seek couples counselling lest their marriage fall apart ... Becoming reads as Obama’s first intervention into this distressing new reality. It definitely does not read like it will be the last.
Read this book and you will be more thankful and even proud to be part of the human race from which this woman (and her husband) emerged. Becoming will assure you that not all figures in public life are professional liars, fakes, thieves, sexual bullies, and assassins ... Becoming, translated into more than 30 languages, injects deep breaths of fresh air and honesty into global consciousness. The book says little directly about politics, but every page reveals a lot about context.
In Becoming, Obama doesn’t write so much as talks to her readers as she always has to a nation that fell in love with her — in clear, frank and forthcoming terms, as a black woman in America with a bridge called her back and a wisdom to lay bare ... A few parts of Becoming read as overly detail-oriented and impersonal... maybe a practiced instinct from her days of writing legal memos. But she more than makes up for any moments of remove as soon as Barack comes onto the scene, because she clearly was not ready for this freewheeling guy from Hawaii with a funny name, who immediately brings out the best in her ... What is revelatory is that by the end of Becoming, who Michelle Obama was before she was FLOTUS is a woman you feel glad and grateful to have back in our midst — the striver, an astonishing mix of resilience, joy, pragmatism and grace.
The first part of her book, and particularly the sections about her childhood and college years, is where Michelle Obama's writing shines brightest ... In other words, this is one of those rare political books with truly excellent writing. Unfortunately, crafter-of-immaculate-prose isn't Obama's only mode. Whether due to years in the political sphere or earnest concerns about American society, she often gets didactic, even social-science-y, in even basic descriptions of her life ... There's more warmth and authenticity in this book than your average political memoir, but some of the magic dims in the third section of the book ... The question is how miffed to get about this. On the one hand, Michelle Obama, like any former first lady, doesn't owe us any juicy details about her life. On the other hand, she is writing a memoir here...
Some readers might smile at the schmaltz. But it serves a purpose: the book is dotted with tales about this complementary relationship — the delight they take in teasing each other over issues such as his smoking, or her need for control — and, if nothing else, it provides convincing signs that the Obamas have a genuine deep romantic connection and marriage. But Becoming also stresses that their family trajectory was no fairy tale ... If there is one big missing element from Becoming, it is clarity about what Michelle Obama will do with her powerful platform now ... But 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.
[Obama] is refreshingly candid, open and yes, vulnerable ... Reading Becoming, events and history that you felt you knew, you now realize you understood only a sliver of the experience. Becoming offers larger slices: messy, honest and real.
Reading Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, feels like catching up with an old friend over a lazy afternoon. Parts of her story are familiar, but still, you lean in, eager to hear them again. Other parts are new and come as a surprise. Sometimes her story makes you laugh out loud and shake your head with a gentle knowingness. Some parts are painful to hear. You wince and wish that you could have protected her from an unkind world ... Becoming shatters the mold, too. Not only because Obama writes in her signature tell-it-like-it-is style, but because she steeps her story in the richness and complexity of African American history that seldom reaches national audiences ... What greater mark on the world could Obama possibly make? Becoming — the title alone — makes it plain that Obama will always perceive herself in a constant state of evolving.
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 ... The book’s first third, Becoming Me, is dedicated to Obama’s upbringing in ‘60s Chicago and her educational development. It can drag, progressing like so many memoirs of its type. But Obama also constructs episodes from her childhood which vividly, subtly capture the experience of growing up black in America ... Obama’s strength in Becoming lies in hindsight, her ability to take a step back from a specific anecdote, and not only contextualize but ruminate on it, really consider its power.
Right from the start, I was surprised and swept up by the storytelling ... I had already abandoned my reservations about Becoming when I reached what I will call the good part. The story she tells her about relationship with Barack Obama is like a mini romance novel ... I felt the writing was so strong and the heartstring-pulling so adept that I skipped ahead to the Acknowledgments looking for a paean to her English teacher or other evidence of a creative writing past ... Unlike Hillary [Clinton], Michelle [Obama] knows partisan politics are boring — the story doesn't even get to Washington, D.C., until page 280; the whole second term gets just a few pages. Donald Trump is only mentioned a couple of times.
Becoming is a beautiful, well-written memoir. Don't read it because you are curious about the painful details. Pick it up because you want to relate to the whole story of a working woman who, on the surface, has everything together, yet in reality is trying to keep it all together.