Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Ready by Michelle Obama
Published November 2018 by Crown Publishing Group
Source: borrowed the audiobook from my local library
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.
Does it tell you how much I liked this book when I say that I held off listening to the last hour for a full day just because I didn't want it to end? Or that I seriously gave some thought to just listening to music for a week instead of starting another audiobook when this was finished because I couldn't imagine hearing anyone else's voice in my ear right away?
I've been a fan of Michelle Obama's since she first came onto the public scene when Barack Obama made his first run at the White House. She has always struck me as a warm, intelligent woman who is fiercely loyal to her family. This book has shown me that she is also driven, funny, down-to-earth, and vulnerable; and the book feels remarkably honest.
Obama shares the story of her growing up years and the sacrifices her parents made so that she and her brother, Craig, could chase their dreams. While her parents set high standards, much of what drove Obama was the example set by her parents, brother and other family members. She also has always had an innate desire to prove herself "good enough," something that drove her to always push for the best. Sometimes, that lead her down paths that weren't necessarily her heart's desire. She went to Harvard, for example, and practiced law for a few years after passing the bar despite the fact that she had no real desire to practice law.
But then, practicing law put her in the right place at the right time to meet Barack Obama, someone who made a terrible first impression on a woman is always punctual, when he showed up very late for his first meeting with her when he came to do some training at the law office she practiced at. As it turned out, Barack is the yin to Michelle's yang. She learned to accept that he was just going to be running late; he taught her to relax more. Obama is open about the fact that marriage hasn't always been easy and that the couple sought, at one point, counseling. She is also remarkably honest about their struggles to have children and how hard it was to raise them once they were in the White House. Dad can't just drop his daughter off to grade school when it takes an entire motorcade to transport him any where. Mom can't sit at the volleyball games without creating a distraction.
Of course, Obama discusses politics and the Republican party does not fare well in her hands. It may be the only flaw that I found with the book, in that she was so quick to support her husband and unwilling to admit to any flaws in his presidency. But then, she's a wife whose husband has been attacked for years about everything from where he was born to the fact that he wore a brown suit. Those attacks didn't stop at her husband. Michelle was vilified for a clip that was taken out of context which appeared to suggest that she'd never been proud of her country until her husband was running for president. She constantly under attack for what she wore from being too casual to spending too much money to posing for an official picture with bare arms. The far right frequently posted racist things about the Obamas and there is a not insignificant number of people who contend that Michelle is actually a man. How would you react to having your family attacked so viciously and relentlessly? I can't really blame her for taking this platform to get her side of the story out and for defending the choices she and Barack made.
Let me just finish by saying that if Michelle Obama ever finds herself in need for some cash (ha!), she could absolutely become an audiobook reader; her voice is soft and comforting. I loved listening to her. Also, I'm pretty sure that she would make a great friend. Now I just have to figure out a way to meet her!