by Lebogang Mashasha

Michelle Robinson takes the reader into the intimate walls of her home, Southside of Chicago…all the way to the grand foyer and oval office of the White House, where she; Michelle Obama, served for 8years as the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS). Not only that, but as the first black lady of the United States.

Becoming is a memoir that feels more like a conversation with Michelle. At times, it felt as though I (the reader) was physically there with her in Euclid Avenue taking piano lessons from Aunt Robbie, juggling student life at Princeton, climbing the corporate ladder as an attorney at or even trying to live a “normal life” with the secret service monitoring her every move in the white house.

I found myself sympathising with her for somewhat feeling guilty for exposing her young daughters to a life of scrutiny they didn’t sign up for. Her dedication to her work, the well-being of her children and husband’s endeavours is worthy of praise. Throughout Becoming, she makes it clear that she was raising her daughters to be strong independent women who would grow up to be self-sufficient.

Since being first lady didn’t carry any“official work requirements” she moulded that position to best suit her. She wanted to actively bring about positive change to others while being FLOTUS.This seen by the various initiatives she started targeted at child nutrition, education and military families. These initiatives were not just hobbies for her and yielded some remarkable results. Through Let’s Move; 11 million learners were becoming physically active in school. 1.5 million jobs were created military members and their families through her partnership with Jill Biden on JoiningForces. Her and Barack’s dedication to educating girls has led them to source billions of dollars to assist in getting girls education.

Becoming is a story of trails and triumphs, fear and faith, adversity and hope all tide beautifully together and presented to us in an honest manner with enough humour to carry the reader through the difficult times in her life. She spoke openly about their struggles to conceive and her miscarriage; as a way to show other women that miscarriages can and do happen to anyone.

What I enjoyed most about Becoming is the reflection of myself I saw in some stages of Michelle’s life. From the girl who didn’t felt out of place in college, to the young adult trying to figure out what her life purpose is. It also gave me a glimpse of life in the white house from the perspective of someone who hated politics but loved her husband enough to endure all that came with the job. Not only that; Becoming shifted my perception about the first family and how “easy” I thought they had it. I treasure my privacy and ability to move about without anyone’s consent even more now. She didn’t remain in the shadows of Barack’s position, but continued working to better the lives of others like she has before; only with a larger audience now.

Her story will resonate with so many people because it is told from a place of honesty. She is inspirational without being preachy in her approach. It is encouraging to read about the story of a strong black woman, told by that very strong black woman. Using her voice and status as an advocate for positive change in the world is a lesson many people in influential positions can learn from. She has given so much of herself to her country and the world, and Becoming is yet another generous offering to us. It makes for a compelling read, with so many gems, that one could read it several times and come out with a new revelation every time.

The title Becoming; is a word in the present, continuous tense which I think was deliberate…becoming is something you are currently doing and will continue to do; it is a journey which has no clearly defined destination.

Michelle, like many of us is still becoming…


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