When I first heard that Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States, A.K.A “Auntie Michelle” (to me, at least), was writing a memoir called Becoming, I anxiously waited for its arrival. I believed that having this book would be like having our very own national treasure, blessing me with knowledge on how to navigate spaces and live my best life as a young black woman in America. It turns out I wasn’t wrong. I couldn't wait for the print version, so on a flight back home I decided to buy my very first Audible book, narrated by Obama herself (*insert hand praise and loud, excited squeal*)! And it was the best decision my anxiously-awaiting little self could have made.
Before starting the book, I was already biased, mostly because I have the utmost respect for Obama and her family. But listening to her voice and her emotions as she reflected on understanding and building her identity as a young black girl; dealing with family dynamics; rediscovering her purpose; balancing a marriage; and navigating motherhood, I felt like I was being given the gems of life – stories that resonated with me that I could reflect on and compare to my own life.
Obama, known as Michelle Robinson at that time, narrates a clear and vivid picture of her upbringing in Chicago and life as a young adult while attending Princeton and Harvard. There are times where she discusses dating as a young person that had me belting “Yasssss Michelle!!!” Her thoughts and feelings about leaving a place where she had built a foundation to step into a new chapter of her life made me think about my move from Florida to New York, leaving my first love behind and offering me the space to grow immensely. At this time in her life, she confidently challenged herself to rediscover her purpose while also falling in love. (It was soooo dreamy, I loved it. I’m still waiting on my Barack!)
Obama moves on to the struggles she had with her husband’s political ambition and her new life that was developing. Then there was November 4th, 2008. The words from Barack Obama’s campaigns that still stand out vividly to me are “hope” and “change” – words that, for me, as a first-time voter in college, were embedded in my thoughts from that day forward. To be able to hear the story of the day that the 44th President was elected through the words of Obama herself was so empowering. It made my eyes water with joy, wishing that I could have been there on that day, in person. She ends the chapter with the words, “We’d been waiting a long, long time.” I was in agreement. Yes, we had. It had finally happened!
As Obama continued being a BOSS, she had to make many difficult decisions. When Barack’s bid for presidency began, she shares how difficult it was to find a work-life balance. Throughout this phase of their lives, Michelle and Barack were conflicted as parents. Their family was continuously belittled by slanted commentary about their character, intelligence, race, and existence. This part of the book made me reflect heavily on my life. The stereotypes placed on black women create a narrative of otherness, causing fear, dislike, and ridicule with the intent to break us down. Knowing that Michelle had support through this was comforting to me. Sisterhood and support is something that we all need during times like those.
What the book demonstrated overall was that Obama decided not to let others define her as the first lady. She defined her own standards and vision. At the end of her memoir, she remains optimistic and hopeful, despite Barack’s successor. It brought me back to the beginning of the book as another new beginning. I imagined her in her new residence with her dogs, reaching to grab her own dishes from the cabinets, with silence surrounding her, ready to start a new chapter of her life and “become” whatever she wants.