My reading these past couple of months has been exceptional, I sure can’t complain about that. And one of the books I finished in November was also one of the most inspirational books I’ve read in a while – and a non-fiction at that – Becoming by Michelle Obama.
I have always liked her as a public figure, but I never knew details about her campaigns and activities, let alone biographical facts – how dry this sounds in contrast to the emotive, human, intimate stories told in the book in fact! I listened to it on my commute and let me tell you these were the best working days I’ve had. Mrs. Obama narrates the audio book herself and listening to her story told in her own voice and with such honesty and compassion, I could not help but feel her a close friend, one with whom we go a long way back.
The memoir starts with her childhood in the South side of Chicago, continues with her going to Princeton and Harvard, starting her first job, and meeting Barrack, then goes on to tell how she faced changes – raising a family of her own and finding her true career path; and losses – losing her father, and her friend from university. Then of course, she tells of the tumultuous years of campaigning and then her life as a First Lady and how she was determined to make use of her new platform and drive real change. What’s more – there are no guide to the role of First Lady, it is entirely shaped by the person herself. In the eight years of Barrack Obama’s presidency, Michelle Obama spearheaded campaigns to bring back healthy food to schools and children, to help girls further their education, and to support military families. She opened the White House to kids, hosted Halloween parties and planted a garden, all the while being an inspiration herself for staying true to her identity, to her roots and to her role as a mother.
My favorite quote is at the end, when she says that she grew up with a disabled father with little money in a declining neighborhood, but she also grew up with love and music in a country, where education can get you a long way. She had nothing and everything – it depends on how you choose to tell that story. This message really resonated with me. “Stay positive” is a really simplistic way to put it, and so trite that we have forgotten how to mean it. It is more about claiming all parts of your journey and staying true to what really speaks to your heart.
It is about finding your voice and becoming you.