As if Michelle Obama weren’t already enough of a badass, her revealing and highly anticipated new memoir, Becoming, has sealed the deal.
The former first lady has always used her prominent stature as a platform for good: to empower women and girls, promote health and fitness for young people, and encourage voting through her nonpartisan campaign When We All Vote. Now in her 426-page book, Obama shares more about her private life than ever before and details the experiences that have molded her: from her humble upbringing to her lucrative career to motherhood in the public eye.
Released on November 13, the book comes with a corresponding 10-city book tour (with moderators such as Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Jessica Parker), which is selling out with ticket prices topping out at $3,000.
According to a Washington Post review, Obama’s book differs from other first-lady memoirs “by virtue of her very identity.” The article states: “Becoming takes her historic status as the first black woman to serve as first lady and melds it deftly into the American narrative. She writes of the common aspects of her story and—as the only White House resident to count an enslaved great-great-grandfather as an ancestor—of its singular sweep.”
Divided into three parts—”Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More”—her story reveals previously unknown details about her life. We’ve heard of how Michelle LaVaughn Robinson grew up in a one-bedroom apartment on Chicago’s South Side with her parents and older brother Craig; how she excelled in school; and how she went on to earn a BA from Princeton University in 1985, as one of the few African American women in her class. But in “Becoming Me,” she delves more deeply into how her early years impacted the person she has become, such as how her father’s multiple sclerosis didn’t hold him back from working. “The lesson being that in life you control what you can,” she writes.
In the “Becoming Us” section of the book, Obama exposes profoundly personal details of her relationship with Barack—beyond how they met at a Chicago law firm while he was her intern. “As soon as I allowed myself to feel anything for Barack, the feelings came rushing—a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder,” she candidly writes. She discloses for the first time the couple’s struggle with fertility, how she suffered a miscarriage, and how both of their daughters were conceived via IVF, challenges to which so many women can relate. Also identifiable by readers is her intense devotion to her family, how she and Barack have been through marital counseling, and her experience with the “can women have it all” dilemma—all of which are discussed in her book. The section also delves into how she balanced a fulfilling career and a family. When her husband decided to run for president, she gave up her six-figure salary to help him campaign. Reflecting on putting her own career on hold as her “husband’s ascent got faster and higher and louder,” she says through that time, being a mother helped her maintain a sense of self-worth.
Another reason why we love Obama is because she is a woman of integrity, who leads by example. Not merely someone who talks the talk, but she is resolute to walk the walk. Obama has remained true to what has become perhaps her most well-known phrase, “When they go low, we go high,” a motto that she first spoke at the 2016 DNC. However, in her book, Obama can’t help but divulge her contempt for the current president, after having never publicly spoken about him before. She said she “buzzed with fury” after hearing the now infamous tape of Trump in his own words bragging about grabbing women.
“It was an expression of hatred that had generally been kept out of polite company, but still lived in the marrow of our supposedly enlightened society—alive and accepted enough that someone like Donald Trump could afford to be cavalier about it,” she writes. She also stated that she’d “never forgive” Trump for potentially putting her family in harm’s way with his false birther conspiracy theory, calling it “crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed.” She continues, “But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks… Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk.”
Obama addresses the difficulty of being pegged as an “angry black woman” because she’s accomplished and outspoken. “I was female, black and strong, which to certain people… translated only to ‘angry.’ It was another damaging cliche, one that’s been forever used to sweep minority women to the perimeter of every room,” she writes. “I was now starting to actually feel a bit angry, which then made me feel worse, as if I were fulfilling some prophecy laid out for me by the haters.”
But, make no mistake, the haters will not keep this badass down, for she maintains, “I absolutely still believe that we’ve got to go high—always and without exception. It’s the only way we can keep our dignity. Because if we lose our dignity, what do we have left?” she said just last week, in an interview with Blavity, a website for black millennials. “Now, going high doesn’t mean giving up or ignoring reality,” she continues. “It doesn’t mean you shy away from the fight or weaken your principles. It means you lead with your whole heart and your whole soul—your whole value system…. Going high isn’t just about the fight you want to win, but it’s also about the person you want to be—and the kind of country you want to have.”
Many would argue they want to have a country with Michelle Obama in the Oval Office. But she is adamant that she won’t run in 2020. In the book, she stresses: “I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last 10 years has done little to change that. I continue to be put off by the nastiness.”
But we can hold out hope that this extraordinary woman who oozes grace, guts, intellect, and moral fortitude might still make history as the nation’s first (black) female president. In the meantime, we’ll have to get our fix by reading her memoir—and if we’re lucky enough to score a ticket, catching her on her national tour.