Lawtina Book Club: Becoming x Michelle Obama
First, so excited for this first rendition of our book club! We’ll try different platforms as we go along, but I thought it made sense to make the first discussion here. And because everyone and their mother received Becoming for the holidays (or so it seemed) this seemed like the logical first choice.
Overall, I loved it! She gave us such great snippets of her life from the beginning of a relationship with an up and coming politician to the tiring and the glamorous parts of being First Lady. But really what I took from their story is how difficult it is to be a political family, especially with young children. Michelle (yes we’re on a first name basis now) is really clear in her hesitancy to open up to a general public and essentially share both her marriage, family, and herself. And who could blame her? She is like a million times better person than me because if I were First Lady trying to help people’s chunky kids live longer and got even half the shit thrown at me that went to her, I’d be like deuces then; enjoy your shorter lifespan children! lol just kidding but only a little. But I am serious about how appreciative I am for her sacrificing so much normalcy and believe she bought into Barack’s life’s work to “fight for the world as it should be,” early on in their relationship. And omg, also their meet-cute is so precious! It is funny to think that there are instances in your life where a simple yes or no changes the trajectory. I was definitely giddy reading about their first kiss. Just, what #couplegoals.
I could go on and on about the topics she covers that expose the sacrifices one makes as a woman, as a mother, a professional, etc. But instead, I want to focus the theme that jumped out of me the most which was the power of education.
Throughout the years as we’ve seen their policies play out and Monday morning quarterback people’s decisions, one thing I’ve seen/heard in progressive circles is how the Obamas may play into respectability politics as a criticism aimed at them. I’m not here to say whether that’s correct or not, but what this booked showed me was a woman who was raised by people who saw education as a tool for their children. Not just a tool, but a shield, the key, literally a life-saving device, for them to obtain a job that would give them financial security, power, and a way to maintain their dignity. She does a great job discussing family members and the hard work they put in through different jobs that often meant they dealt with indignities that comes with racism and poverty. It’s clear then why her parents would want both of their children to excel and succeed because these degrees (esp from Ivy Leagues) come with power and can be an equalizer (or as close to equalizer as possible). And it’s obvious Michelle views education the same way, which is why she participates so heavily in programs that will encourage more children of color to participate in higher Ed. And maybe for some people who grew up with the assumption that college was a given, the push that others make to encourage people to go to college may seem out of place when higher Ed is hella pricy, exclusive and dismissive of people of color, etc. But for those who have seen the power a college or professional degree can leverage, it is no mystery why we push so strongly for others to pursue this path.
The other part that I loved was how her story silently called back to Barack’s second book “The Audacity of Hope,” because when you see her story, it is exactly that. You see a girl from a poor, marginalized neighborhood with parents who weren’t professionals or highly educated and decided despite those factors that she would not only get one, but two Ivy League degrees. All that work she put in meant that there were many times when she was the only one that believed in herself the most. She ignored naysayers (those jerk guidance counselors!) and decided to have “faith in my own story.” So even when people thought she was reaching and maybe going beyond the bounds of what was supposed to be allotted to her, she kept reaching because many times “reaching was all [she] could do.”
And that to me was the compass she shared that is most useful for those who are starting or in the midst of your educational journeys. Working hard, having faith in your intelligence and skills, and then reaching out for opportunities, jobs, schools, experiences that people may think aren’t for you. Keep reaching because there’s no other option but to try. That is such a powerful message to me and made me appreciate her journey even more.
I could go on and on, but what did you think? Let’s talk below!
I read the book over winter break and LOVED it. It was humorous, energizing, and extremely motivating. I resonated a lot with how she described her life outside of university settings and at home. Coming from a low-income family and attending private school, is like you’re living two different lives! I loved that she included the historical context of what was happening during her upbringing and was fascinated by the independence her family fostered in her and her brother from early on.
One of my ultimate favorite parts of the book was when she spoke on her experiences of mentorship and how she did not accomplish everything she has on her own. I think we live in a world where we see successful folx like the Obama’s and we’re quick to assume their hard work and ambition alone led them to their success. But we often forget that their systems of support and encouragement served as a platform for that success! By this I mean that mentorship played a huge role in Michelle’s story and I loved that she named that and continues to be an advocate for mentorship.
Overall, it was one of my favorite memoirs! She did a phenomenal job of describing many questions I had for her regarding identities, romance, work ethic, and even struggles. There are many parts I want to go back and analyze later, because it was all so meaningful!
Yes! Thank you! I felt the same about her discussing feeling like an outsider in school and seeking other students of color to feel more at home. Also it was so telling that she felt more comfortable applying to Princeton because Chicago U (right in her backyard) felt so distant from her.