Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I have to lower my expectations to say I really enjoyed this book. While they weren't insanely high, I've heard Michelle Obama speak. I've seen the way she acts. She was the first First Lady I ever felt connected to as a person. I find her to be a poised, intelligent, kind, and genuine person. She was an accessible public figure and she was and still is cool.

While a lot of these traits come through in the book, along with her inspiring commitment to some very important causes, I couldn't help but feel like she was talking out loud, in written format, rather than writing a book. This created a disjointed feeling in the narrative for me. Although the flow was chronological, sections within chapters didn't easily connect, and transitions were few and far between.

The best part is the book takes you through the dynamics of Michelle's entire life. You see how each stage added onto the previous to move her down her own path. Even though she eventually must ride as a passenger on the path of someone else, she quickly makes even that situation her own. I love how she refuses to do things the way people did them before. I like that she pushed the envelope in the name of normalcy and never traded her compassion and natural self for diplomacy. 

Given a deep look behind the curtain, it was nice how prominently the Obama kids and Michelle's family featured in the book, and how little Barack's own experiences made an appearance. I appreciate that Michelle kept things solely from her perspective. What I didn't love was that her story gets interrupted by forced flourishes of language, smilies, metaphors, etc. You suddenly feel like you're reading an editor's words and not the author's, whose straightforward approach to storytelling is distinctive. 

Aside from the writing issues, I'm glad I read this book. It's an inspiring story about a woman who found normal even with it was almost completely out of sight. It's about someone who took their position seriously in the world and used it to speak out about her own passions and help those people who touched her heart the most deeply. I loved her connection to groups of people whose collective voices weren't loud enough to make a big noise on their own. She made the noise with them and for them, and that's important.

I only wish it was written differently. Michelle is an engaging and dynamic speaker. On stage and in interviews she has impact, but I kept tripping over the narrative while reading her. I still do recommend this book since it's a unique life story, but be prepared for a looser connection between sections, and more telling than showing as you learn about this incredible woman.