#Review: BECOMING, by Michelle Obama

Barack Obama was my president.

It’s possible that you intuitively grasp exactly what I’m talking about, but I’m going to explain anyway.  I voted for Barack Obama literally every single time he stood for public office.  I was living in Hyde Park, in an apartment across the street from the Baskin-Robbins where he and Michelle had their first kiss, when he was rising to prominence before running for the Senate.  I attended the University of Chicago, where he worked.  I have met Jeremiah Wright, who was his pastor.  He and Bill Ayers were never as close as the media liked to pretend (they served on a board or two together, and Bill had a picture of the two of them together on his refrigerator) but Bill was one of my professors at the University of Illinois.  I haven’t talked to Bill in a several years, but, well, I know there used to be a picture of him and Barack together on the fridge in his house and his number is still in my phone.  

I was telling people Barack Obama was going to be the first black president before anybody outside of Chicago knew who the hell Barack Obama was.  I can remember someone passing me on the highway and honking and waving, and waving rather confusedly back until they got ahead of me and I realized they also had an Obama for Senate bumper sticker on their car.  

Was he a perfect president?  Absolutely not.  Ask me about his education policies sometime, which were more or less continued without modification from his predecessor, and I loathed his first choice for Secretary of Education– Arne Duncan, who had been CEO of Chicago Public Schools, where I had worked.   But he was my president in a way no one ever had before and in a way that it seems highly unlikely anyone ever will be again. My attachment to this man is deep and abiding and I suspect it will not be waning anytime soon.  

And the truth is, as much as I like Barack, I like Michelle even more.  Because Michelle has everything going for her that her husband does, only she’s never disappointed me.   

I have a particular bookshelf that contains at least one book by or about every legitimately elected American president.  Hillary Clinton’s book WHAT HAPPENED is occupying the space that might belong to the Current Occupant, who forced me to institute the “legitimately elected” rule.  I’m adding BECOMING to this shelf.  Michelle makes it clear that she never intends to run for political office, and a good chunk of the book is dedicated to the various debates and conversations that she had with her husband about his own choices to run for office.  She’s never going to be president.  But I’m putting it there anyway, because it’s my house and my bookshelf and I can.  

Yeah, this is gonna be one of those book reviews where I spend 80% of the review talking about me and then the last 20% talking about the book.  But hey: my blog; y’all know how I work by now.  And here’s the thing: Michelle Robinson would still have turned out to be a fascinating human being even if she’d never become Michelle Obama.  The part of the book dedicated to her childhood and her pre-marriage-and-kids life is every bit as interesting as the stuff I actually remember, and her perspective on her husband’s fame and her own, and her charting her own path as she learns the “soft power” of the First Lady’s office, makes for a great read.  This isn’t a book about Barack Obama, even if he is (obviously) a major player for a large part of it.  But it’s absolutely a great read and it’s going to show up on my top 10 list when I write it in a couple of weeks.

Also, because I’m this guy and I can’t not mention this: this book is for some reason one of the most physically satisfying tomes I’ve ever held.  As an object it’s great; the paper is creamy and feels wonderful (they’re clearly using a higher grade of paper than most of the books I read) and the weight of the book is … well, I just said “satisfying,” and I don’t like constantly re-using words, but fuck it: the book is just tremendous to hold as you’re reading it.  I’m sure the paperback will be fine, and as an indie author I can’t come down too hard on ebooks, but still: get it in hardcover.  It’s worth it.  

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

5 thoughts on “#Review: BECOMING, by Michelle Obama

  1. Oh wow, I hope Christmas delivers my expected copy. One of my daughters was with a catering company working in 10 Downing Street (UK prime-minister’s house) when the Obamas were on their state visit. She was involved with the spouses’ lunch and so got to meet Michelle, who managed a word with even the humblest of the staff. That a country can elect Obama and then his successor is one of the enigmas of human behaviour that will continue to baffle me up to my deathbed.

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