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February 25, 2019

Becoming


Becoming by Michelle Obama
Memoir
2018 Random House Audio
Finished on February 15, 2019
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)

My first 5/5 for 2019!

Publisher's Blurb:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

I not only got to see Barack Obama speak at a rally in Omaha, Nebraska in 2008, but I was also able to attend an event at the Lied Center in Lincoln, when Michelle Obama spoke about her husband and his run for the White House. It goes without saying that Obama is a great speaker and he had the entire crowd cheering and eager to get to the polls to elect him as the 44th President of the United States. But it was Michelle's speech that truly inspired me. She spoke with great eloquence and conviction and I walked out of that venue feeling hopeful and proud of my country. And now a decade later... well, I won't go there.

It's been over a week since I finished listening to this remarkable memoir and I'm still sorting out my thoughts and feelings, so bear with me. I began listening to the book on New Year's Eve day and it took me over six weeks to complete, not because it was slow and plodding, but mainly because I didn't spend as much time outside walking, which is when I typically listen to audio books. I was not aware of the length of the print copy (426 pages) when I downloaded the audio and since I rarely look to see how that translates to listening hours, I was surprised to see that it is a 19 hour audio. (To give you a point of reference, the audio of A Gentleman in Moscow is almost 18 hours.) Anyhow, it's a long book, but well worth every minute! And, my goodness, does Michelle nail the audio! Her clear enunciation, as well as the emotion and passion behind her words, makes for a marvelous listening experience. She is articulate and intelligent and has experienced an extraordinary life that most of us will never know, and yet, she sounds no different than any mom, wife or daughter, sharing the same concerns, fears and frustrations that most of us have. I loved learning about her childhood just as much as her life in the White House. I enjoyed hearing about her relationship with her daughters and Barack (and all its challenges) equally as much as her achievements as First Lady. I was moved to tears when she spoke of her father's final moments, as well as the intense emotion of election night (2008) and her last day in the White House. She is one classy, witty and kind woman and someone whom I would love to have as a friend.

Favorite Quotes:
For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.
and
For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in. Maybe then we can begin to fear less, to make fewer wrong assumptions, to let go of the biases and stereotypes that unnecessarily divide us. Maybe we can better embrace the ways we are the same. It’s not about being perfect. It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.
and
It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.
I can't recommend this heartfelt and honest memoir any more highly and while I plan to buy a copy of the book for a future re-read, I absolutely loved the audio and am glad I listened to it first. Oh, how I wish I could once again see Michelle Obama at one of her speaking engagements. I would give her a standing ovation. This woman has my utmost respect. Bravo!

12 comments:

  1. I agree with everything you said. I loved the audio but browsed through the print book to see the photos. I knew it but never really thought about the Obamas humble beginnings until I listened to this book.

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    1. Kathy, I'm eager to get my hands on the print book! Yes, they really did have humble beginnings, didn't they.

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  2. I truly enjoyed this book as well. I listened and it was long, but I found myself playing it while I sewed and cooked and drove the car. Very well done.

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    1. Julie, it's one of the best audio productions I've listened to.

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  3. What a wonderful review to read, Les! You expressed my own feelings about the book and the woman perfectly! She’s an inspiration and a hero to me!

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    1. Robin, wouldn't it be marvelous to hear her speak?! I wish I could afford the tickets.

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  4. I loved that she read this one. It was so inspiring! I loved everything about the book and even later got the print edition so I could enjoy the photos.

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    1. Diane, I loved that she read it, too. I listened to Joe Biden's book (Promise Me, Dad) and didn't have the same reaction to his narration, unfortunately. I think I'll get a copy of this to give to my granddaughter, who will turn 17 this year.

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  5. Oh my! "For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others. And here is what I have to say, finally: Let’s invite one another in." Oh my!

    Could she please go and talk with the Person Who Will Not Be Named, the fellow is currently in charge of our country?!

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    1. Deb, sadly we know how that conversation would go.

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  6. Tom read it and really enjoyed it. He told me the parts about her mother - which I loved.

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    1. Nan, Rod wants to read it, too. I loved the parts about her mother, too.

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