Ten Awesome Things I learned about Michelle Obama in Becoming*

becoming

1-She wasn’t in love with practicing the law. “I wasn’t built to practice law.” –133. She also failed the bar exam on her first try. I’ve kicked myself around a lot over the last 25 years for going to law school and not passing the bar exam and wondering how stupid was I to think I wanted to practice law. It was affirming and refreshing to hear someone I admire, have a similar experience.

2-She’s funny. In a way that sneaks up on you, she sets up some great jokes. Especially the petting zoo story and Barack’s musings about income inequality. You just had to be there.

3-She had an upbringing most of us could relate to. Sharing rooms with a sibling, watching parents sacrifice, loud, noisy extended families, money was tight but you always had a few presents under the tree, that sort of thing.

4-She can write! Look it’s not a matter of lowered expectations. Many well-educated, well-read people are not necessarily great writers. Writing is an entirely different skill set, and writing compelling prose is an elevated skill. She has the chops and it shows.

5-She’s a Hamilfan!

6-She has had to reconcile who she is in America with who she is in Africa and it’s a feeling that many of us who return to the country of our family (or self in my case) origins experience. She really pinpoints the in-betweenness one feels being African American in Africa. “It gave me a hard-to-explain feeling of sadness, a sense of being unrooted in both lands.” –168.

7-She constantly wrestles with being a good parent. I wish Michelle and Barack were my parents and I’m pretty sure Dylan wishes the same. Her thoughtfulness, and struggles to be a mom and have a career are all-too common, but in the end, the kids were always the ones to take precedence.

8-She honestly confronts race and gender. Whether she talks about being fully “other” so conservatives could dismiss her and Barack and be made alien, so their potency could be drained, or her observation when watching Trump’s Access Hollywood tape knowing that his message was “I can hurt you and get away with it,” she doesn’t ignore some of the most heated moments of her time in the White House.

9-She’s not only a work in progress, as she says, but her life is “a process, steps along a path. (And) becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the ideas that there’s more growing to be done.” –419 But through it she saw “we were planting seeds of change, the fruit of which we might never see. We had to be patient.” –370.

10-She wrote one of the best last paragraphs of a book I’ve read in ages. “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 a 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.”

*First book in my 52/2019 challenge. Thanks to my kid who stood in line for over two hours to get me a SIGNED copy. And Michelle said “Hi babe!” to her.

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