“BECOMING”: FROM CHICAGO SOUTH SIDE TO THE WHITE HOUSE.

Her Memoir, BECOMING is on its way to becoming (all pun intended, lol) the most popular autobiography on record as its sales in hard cover, audio books, and e-books hit the ten million mark in less than a year. Her book tour tickets are usually sold out. Phew!

But hey, who would not want to read or listen to a Michelle Obama? Those who would not want to listen or read are definitely in the minority and might not understand even if they tried, lol. The book is a pleasure to read, the careful chronicle of her development, the clarity, the genuineness, the attention to minutest details, the holistic account of ‘Becoming’ a Michele Obama from her childhood with brother Craig and parents, adolescence, her education through high school to Princeton and Harvard, her work experiences, meeting and mentoring Barack, their relationship from courtship to marriage, the painful loss of her father, her aunt and friend, their difficulty with pregnancy and eventual success with IVF, the birth of her two daughters, their political journey through their communities in Chicago and all the way to the White House and the highs and lows of being a woman and black in America.

But the brilliance that shone through the book comes as no surprise given that her campaign speeches as her husband campaigned through his political career put her on a pedestal that many believe greatly moved votes in her husband’s favour. She is today one of the most influential women in the world. From Chicago to Iowa, Mississippi to Washington, etc., Michelle won hearts as she genuinely connected with human beings irrespective of race, gender, class or creed. Her focus was mainly on her own social and political metamorphosis and on the man she first met at the law firm she worked at and who she had been a mentor to.

Despite her skepticism about politics, she had found in him the cerebral capacity, the genuine empathy, the integrity, and the community spirit to impact on lives as a politician starting from Chicago through to US congress then to the White House. She takes us through her effort at sacrificing the full presence of Barack in their family to sparing him time for politics in the better interest of America and her future as a country. Being a woman that left her high profile job to work with her community, she knew that given the person of Barack, he would bring value to the people. This was the motivation that fired her total support for him in ways not too many women in history have done.

She gave an account of her childhood, her parents’ dedication to family, her father’s struggles with his illness and his spirit of defiance and her mother’s sacrifices for the family and a brother who hovered over her in protective mode all the time. Her upbringing prepared her for her becoming the Michelle the world adores today.

On the contrary, Barack was pretty much raised by his grandparents and unlike her stable story, he moved a lot as a child with his mother. He did not have the luxury of growing up with his father. However, she was intrigued by how he turned out a gentleman in spite of the stereotyping that usually goes with his sort of checkered childhood. Barack displayed an unusual sense of dignity and respect. Given his attributes, he could have gotten away with some airs but he was very grounded and a complete gentleman that did not take himself too seriously. From day one he treated Michelle with absolute love and sincerity . She gushed over his unusual marriage proposal that came in a very goofy and casual way that struck at his personality.

Their relationship as narrated in the book comes at a time that the world needs to rethink what it means for a man to be respectful and loving enough to the women in his life and his immediate family as Barack was. Invariably he deservedly got Michelle’s loving support because she saw in him values that go with leadership at all levels, home, family , community and the greatest of all, the Presidency of the United States. And Barack saw in her an invaluable partner in his personal and political lives. His respect for her was a valuable tool that paid off as he tapped into her potential as a friend, wife, and political strategist…well not on paper but with the execution of ideas that shot him to global pedestal as the 44th President of America.

His victories through his political career were indicative of the values he espoused and the validation by a supportive spouse. Nonetheless, what ails the world still trailed them, the divisiveness of those with complex expressed through divisively populist rhetoric. Michelle experienced through her education and as FLOTUS what it means to be black and a woman in America. But her triumph against all odds is still a lesson in fortitude and perseverance. She narrates in her memoir their decision to be as regular in the White House as any couple but conscious of the fact that America and the world put them on a pedestal. They were very deliberate in actions and words because they realized the expectations from them as role models and that guided their total conduct for the eight years in the White House.

On her part, she chose to be a calming voice for her husband by being strictly focused on the family rather than being involved in the policy matters even as a fellow professional lawyer who passed through the campaign grill. Very admirably keeping the family grounded together with her Mum in the white house. This attitude paid off as theirs seems a model family with their two daughters coming off as well taken care of and fully grounded despite the privileges of their birth.

She bared everything about their struggles as a couple to conceive, her miscarriages , their resort to IVF and their success with their two adorable daughters. Her experiences with motherhood and Barack’s political engagements that saw him battling for a balance between parenting and his political life is one most people can connect with. He however took nothing for granted and turned out a husband and father she and the daughters are eternally proud of.

The ‘Becoming’ memoir is all that any reader would value for its authenticity and deep human angle narrative. It has sold as many as ten million copies for a reason…it is a story of growth, of development, of the reality of the American society, of being a daughter, a woman, a mother, a wife, a career woman but in all it is a valid example of the capacity and resilience of the human spirit.

Through the book, she tells the story of the average Black family in America, the challenges and the determination of most regular black families to succeed against all odds. She takes us through her extended family life of aunts and uncles who are normally an integral part of black families coming with support and encouragement for development. She laid bare her most intimate relationships with her friends male and female alike taking us through her planned first kiss and all other adolescent growth experiences in comical ways we can all connect with.

The ‘YES WE CAN’ campaign slogan of an Obama was rooted in the inner core of the man and his equally cerebral wife. The book is an empowering tool to generations to come of all that is possible with the human spirit. An Obama did not win with only black votes or white votes, his was a rainbow of voters and those who believed in the capacity of every human to excel and to achieve when they work very hard and that should be a lesson for those with divisive political rhetoric across the globe. There is strength in diversity! Skin color does not define competence.

An Obama does not just come off as a former President of America but as a model husband and father having married an equally brilliant Michelle who saw in him the qualities of a truly good man but far from perfection. They might both not be perfect but which human is? Barack stands as a good example of what a supportive and appreciative man can gain from respecting the woman in his life. It’s usually a win-win situation like we have with this first black couple to live in the white house with the full realization of their roles as trailblazers who had history in mind.

A Michelle stands out as a brilliant woman whose eye for excellence saw her growth and successes through Ivy League schools at a time that blacks were still trying to integrate into the American educational system. Her motherhood roles seemed effortless not because she had super powers but because she was determined to succeed as a mother just like her mum who accompanied them to the White House. Her effort to re-orientate parents by trying to draw attention to juvenile obesity and her idea of having a garden at the White House as a way of encouraging healthy feeding for kids was very innovative.

Her brilliance shown through in her classy by totally simple dressing and measured use of her office to draw attention through patronage to hitherto unknown designers that she launched into prominence. The couple brought to the White House the family cohesion and family support of their heritage and stamped their unique footprints in the history books. They are a model couple. That a respectful Barack on a casual date sought her permission by asking, “Can I kiss you” signaled a lifetime of dignity and respect. The #METOO movement might have been nonexistent if most men had that sense of dignity in relating with women no matter their status. That singular display of respect and restraint says a million words.

In all ‘Becoming’ has truly earned its place in the history of memoirs for the sense of commitment and authenticity in telling a story of growth, of social and political developments, of the lives of every human being being of the same essence irrespective of gender, creed, color , race or class.

The triumph of the human spirit amidst obstacles and doubts sums up this brilliantly written work of art. The narrative is almost conversational drawing in any reader. The chronology in her odyssey is well laid out with attention to all details. Her attention to the most seemingly insignificant details like colors, the weather, voices and tones, facial expressions, architectural arts, relationships and expression of emotions stand the book out and further connects her to any reader. She is not telling the story of her prominence or excitement as FLOTUS but as a regular child, woman, mother, and a politician’s wife who is just a regular human being subject to life and its many experiences and challenges. The honesty of narrative is totally very appealing.

Good thing is, Michelle tells us she is still becoming because we all are in the process of becoming something in life just like the chronology she has bared in her book, we are on a journey of becoming ourselves in different forms. Becoming is a story well told in ways that we each see a reflection of ourselves in one way or the other. The ease of the narrative and the authenticity come with the attraction that make the author one of the most sought after public speakers in the world today.

She has in her own words documented for generations how she grew to become the first black First Lady of the United States of America. It is her BECOMING Michelle Robinson Obama and also a story about Obama becoming the 44th President of the US starting from the moment he walked into her office at the law form as her mentee and the collaborative efforts of all that worked for his political victories. Theirs was a true partnership that birthed success and the world is undoubtedly inspired by their story.

In my view, the central message of this memoir is the value of family, relationships, community, love for country and the unalloyed loyalty we each owe those sectors. The couple’s commitment to those is admirable and a model to the world. Their dedication to empathetically being available for family, community and country is the hallmark of their participation in American politics. Their unity of purpose has been a huge asset to their mission in politics. They are a perfect example of the axiomatic charity starting at home. They started from their communities to sow the values of care and support. Their carrier choices show their inner core as very community-oriented and they were a perfect match and a grateful country spoke at the polls repeatedly. Lessons!

This memoir would definitely raise the bar for Obama’s own taking us back to his campaign days when it did appear that Michelle raised the bar in public speaking given the oratorical excellence she gave the world each time she took the podium. She speaks with a truly effortless confidence and a genuineness that is very enchanting. Barack must work very hard to beat her excellent record. The world cant wait..lol.

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