‘Becoming’ Review: Michelle Obama Memoir Pulls Heartstrings

By Marion Winik

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Marion Wink shares her reflections on Michelle Obama’s new memoir “Becoming”


On the day Michelle Obama’s memoir, “Becoming,” was published, I was at the airport. A woman sitting near me at the gate had three copies in her bag, more than $100, with tax, and was teasing her companion about whether she could have one for the flight. I jokingly offered mine. This was no coincidence. Three-quarters of a million copies of the book were sold that day, Nov. 13.

While I was eager to check it out, I didn’t have crazy-high expectations. I figured it would be something like Hillary Clinton’s most recent book, “What Happened”, an interesting inside look at a woman of character and achievement, plus a truckload of boring politics and partisanship.

Right from the start, I was surprised and swept up by the storytelling. Most of us already know about Michelle Robinson’s tight-knit family on the South Side of Chicago, described by her husband as the black “Leave It to Beaver.”

The wholesomeness and warmth this suggests is evoked with complexity in “Becoming,” particularly her father’s dignified bearing of the burden of multiple sclerosis. Bad things happen in the neighborhood, from the decline of the local public school to a house fire that kills all the children and “spares” the parents.

I had already abandoned my reservations about “Becoming” when I reached what I will call the good part. The story she tells her about relationship with Barack Obama is like a mini romance novel. They met when she was assigned to mentor him at her law firm. This man with the odd name is “late on Day One” and she has doubts about the hype surrounding him (“you put a suit on any half-intelligent black man and white people tended to go bonkers”). To top it off, he smoked cigarettes.

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