Becoming by Michelle Obama

Book Review

Memoir | Inspirational | Politics | Success Journey | Autobiography

Where do I begin? How can I say something different about this book that you don’t already know, I guess I cannot because this book is about Michelle Obama. But I can certainly say that it will have a lasting impact on its readers in its unique way. Becoming is a memoir about Mrs. Obama’s personal experiences from childhood to becoming the former First Lady of the United States. It’s about her journey, her successful journey, that was not just rosy but also about taking the rough with the smooth. What makes this journey so amazing is that it’s relatable and at the same time inspiring.

Here’s a memory, which like most memories is imperfect and subjective – collected long ago like a beach pebble and slipped into the pocket of my mind.

Michelle Obama

There are three parts to this book: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More.
Just the name of the chapters is good enough to inspire me. Sometimes the hardest part can be understanding yourself, your limitations, your strengths, and it’s all about learning to embrace them.

In the first part, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson talks about her childhood. The place where she grew up which is the South Side of Chicago, about her close-knit family, her neighborhood, and her school. As a kid, she was competitive, a go-getter, and was determined to excel at school. She also took piano lessons from her mother’s aunt, Robbie, at a very young age. Even though they had little money while growing up, her life was filled with rich experiences that have taught her to appreciate the little joys. Her brother, Craig, has been a constant support in her years of growing up. Her father taught her to be strong, brave, and to keep going no matter how hard life gets at times. Her mother taught her the most valuable lessons while she was growing up and she continues to be her role model. Despite the racial inequalities that she had to face at times, she managed to study at Princeton University and also graduated from Harvard University.

Time, as far as my father was concerned, was a gift you gave to other people.

– Michelle Obama

The second part, Becoming Us is about Michelle and Barack Obama. There was excitement from deep down when I reached this part. It’s hard for anyone to not get attracted to Obama’s magnetic personality and his mesmerizing smile, not that Michelle is any less charismatic. When these two powerful personalities come together sparks are bound to fly. Becoming Us is Michelle and Obama’s journey – of how their relationship evolved from colleagues, friends to lovers. When they were truly connecting, I was all starry-eyed while reading it, and it has to be one of my most favorite love stories. Further on, Michelle talks about the good times as well as the bad times that they had to go through because of their immensely demanding jobs. Although, it felt like Michelle had to make more sacrifices in this relationship we cannot hold Obama responsible for any faults since politics is a field where your life belongs more to the public than to your family. She also talks in-depth about motherhood and their lovely girls, Malia and Sasha.

Barack was serious without being self-serious. He was breezy in his manner but powerful in his mind.

There was no arguing with the fact that even with his challenged sense of style, Barack was a catch. He was good-looking, poised, and successful. He was athletic, interesting, and kind. What more could anyone want?

– Michelle Obama

The last part, Becoming More, is about what it takes to be the First Lady and its tremendous responsibilities. She talks about how she managed to learn things that nobody tells you about and how it feels like to be living in the White House. Never a fan of politics, Michelle Obama was worried how their lives will no longer be private anymore. Every little thing was going to be noticed, criticized, or appreciated. Doing the most mundane things like sitting on the balcony to enjoy a cup of tea was out of reach for her. They had become the most important people and with that came many duties towards their country. As the First Lady, Mrs. Obama tried to make the most of this opportunity by putting effort into inspiring children and young girls with the Let’s Move and Let Girls Learn initiatives. Her Joining Forces initiative along with Dr. Jill Biden was aimed towards supporting military families and the Reach Higher initiative encouraged young students to take charge of their future. Even though the Obamas couldn’t bring an immediate change, they worked towards making the country as they think it should be with the hope that future generations will see a better world.

We were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.

Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?

– Michelle Obama

What makes this book special is telling normal people, like me or us, that celebrated icons have a normal life too and that in turn can make us feel special. They also go through the same emotional ups and downs but nobody shares it in such depth. She is like one of us, living a simple life, doing simple things, and having similar dreams. Nothing over the top, just a normal person getting through life one day at a time. Some excerpts in this book have taught me how life is so short and how we need to make the most of it. She talks about things that sometimes we are terrified to even think about, like death. Nobody tells us how to deal with death, by sharing her intimate experiences, she tells us that even the difficult times will pass, and soon dealing with the terrible pain of loss will not be so hard.

This is an autobiography that’s not just about her, I guess it’s her way of teaching valuable life lessons like a mentor who is looking out for us. It’s not a self-help book but when you have a guide like Michelle Obama why wouldn’t you want to look up to her and learn how to deal with the difficult times. Her honesty and deeply personal experiences are not a boastful act but a subtle way of motivating people to face challenges and to be courageous.

There are so many amazing quotes in this book, I wish I could list all the ones that I have highlighted while I was reading it but then I guess I will end up quoting the entire book. I will hold myself back and only share some of the best ones that you might enjoy reading too.

I’ve smiled for photos with people who call my husband horrible names on national television, but still want a framed keepsake for their mantel.

It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.

I’d been raised to be confident and see no limits, to believe I could go after and get absolutely anything I wanted. And I wanted everything. Because, as Suzanne would say, why not?

Dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization. It’s the ugliest kind of power.

When I was a kid, it was easy to grasp: Bullies were scared people hiding inside scary people.

Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result

For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end

– Michelle Obama

It was hard for me to write a review for this book without getting carried away and adding my opinions on situations that resonated with me. Thank you for reading this review till the end. Clearly, I am a huge fan of the Obamas, I will keep it short by saying, “I highly recommend this book so, please go read it!”

PS: I remember the day when somebody told me that I look like Michelle Obama and I had gotten annoyed because obviously, they were not comparing personalities, it was about my skin color. I guess the annoyance came from my childhood experiences where I was often told that I look like Halle Berry or Kiran Bedi because I was a brown-skinned girl with a boy-cut hairstyle. Even though it was supposed to be taken as a compliment I found the comparisons to be a little crude. But now, I feel proud that the person who compared me to Mrs. Obama has given me one of the best compliments ever and I hope that someday I get to be a strong and wonderful woman like her. Here’s to becoming like Michelle Obama!

Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.

– Michelle Obama

Two Days in Paris

Like many travel enthusiasts, it has always been my dream to visit Paris. It was a short 2-day trip but my husband and I tried to make the most of our time on hand.

We booked a hotel called Hôtel Eiffel Kensington. The building looked beautiful. In fact, the architecture of all the buildings in Paris is wonderful and majestic. You can spend hours admiring the exteriors of regular buildings, their tiny balconies, the artistic railings, and the windows.

Day 1:
1. Eiffel Tower
2. River Seine Cruise
3. Arc de Triomphe
4. Luxembourg Gardens

Day 2:
1. Notre Dame Cathedral.
2. The Louvre Museum
3. Do a Walking Tour (Optional but recommended)

Day 1
When you are in Paris, two things are mandatory:

  1. Seeing the Eiffel Tower
  2. Seeing Paris by boat

We got up early to see the Eiffel Tower. We saw it from outside, from inside, and from the top. Initially, I did not find it super impressive, but the more I saw the Eiffel Tower, the more I fell in love with it. The Eiffel Tower is always there and seems to follow you around where ever you go! I feel everything about Paris is wonderful because of it. There was a long queue to enter the Eiffel Tower but it was worth the wait.

After walking for several hours, we took a rest stop around the Eiffel Tower to eat. We ate some relishing hot crepes and ice creams.

The next thing on our list was the 1-hour River Seine Cruise. Seeing Paris in a boat and gliding under the marvelous bridges was the most heartwarming experience. The guide did a great job in explaining the history of all the monumental buildings and the famous bridges that we came across on the ride.

Our next stop was to see the Catacombs of Paris but it had the longest waiting line that I have ever seen in my life and since we were running short on time, we couldn’t do it, maybe next time! But, if you have the time, then seeing the Catacombs is considered to be a must!

We then saw Arc de Triomphe and sat in the famous Luxembourg Gardens to enjoy a leisurely sunset.

River Cruise

Day 2

We started the day by visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral. After the magnificent sights of the church, we joined a walking tour that took us around the city. The guide narrated interesting tales about every street and monument we crossed on a nearly 4-hour walk. I always enjoy doing walking tours, the slow leisurely pace to experience a new city suits me well. We ended up at the doorstep of the Louvre which was the last stop on our itinerary for the day.

The Louvre Museum is one of the most historic and largest museums in the world. Right at the entrance, the sight of the museum took my breath away. The glass pyramid serves as the entrance and it’s also the first art piece you experience as you enter the Louvre.

When we entered inside, we completely lost track of time, 4-5 hours just flew by. There was so much to see and so little time. We attempted to locate the Mona Lisa but got hopelessly lost within the museum. Several of the exhibits and especially the Napoleons’ war rooms brought tears to my eyes. The grandeur and scale of the art at the Louvre are breathtaking! Peppered in amongst the museum visitors were also aspiring artists who sat with their sketchbooks, sketching away their versions of art pieces by the masters.

The Louvre

About Our Stay

Our hotel room was small but comfortable and was located in a great place. I say great because we could see the Eiffel tower from our window. There was a queen-size bed and a bathroom in the room which was spacious enough to do the job. There was also a wall-mounted television, two tiny bedside tables and they had even managed to fit in a desk, and a chair in the corner of the room with barely any space left to walk around. However, the room was still cute and we loved it. It was our cozy room with a view!

We mostly took the subways to travel around the city which is extremely well connected. Every time we went underground I would get disappointed because I did not want to miss any second admiring the beautiful streets, shops, people, cafes, trees, and of course the artistic buildings in Paris. It is true, what you hear about Paris, there is romance in the air, a happy feeling to elate the spirits.

Hôtel Eiffel Kensington

These are some of the places that you must visit when you are in Paris. This was before the pandemic, sometime in 2016. I miss travelling and I miss Paris. So I decided to write about my travel experience and share with you the places that I visited and the memories that I still cherish.

More photos of the hotel and views of Paris on my travel blog: Traveller Writes

View from Eiffel Tower