Book Review: Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Posted May 7, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments



by Michelle Obama

Publisher: Crown on November 13, 2018
Genre: Autobiography, Biography, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult
Representation: BIPOC, Black, Own Voices Author
Content Warnings: Death, Death of Parent, Racism

Rating: ★★★★

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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.


If you pick up Michelle Obama’s memoir and the first few chapters don’t suck you in… stick with it.

I say this because at the beginning of Becoming, all I could think was “this is okay… but it’s overhyped?” and I started steeling myself to write an Unpopular Opinion review.  Becoming starts a bit more slowly and picks up speed as it goes.  Like any memoir, your enjoyment of it will depend on what you want to know.  For example, while she talks a little about the time she spent dating Barack Obama, that isn’t a large focus of the book.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of Becoming focuses on her family’s time in the White House.  I really liked this – more than I expected to.  She really humanized their experience there.  Presidential families are traditionally made up of Rich White Men and as such it makes the high office feel distant.  Michelle Obama speaks more of humanity than patriotic duty, and in my opinion… that matters.  A lot.

Becoming openly discusses relatable themes like miscarriage, work-life balance, passion projects, and parenting.  She briefly addresses a few banner moments in the presidency and she talks a little about her Let’s Move campaign.  She also talks about wishing her husband was home for dinner, and the crushing fear of saying the wrong thing and ruining everything.  Most importantly, to me, she takes the Obamas time in office and makes it accessible.  From her daughters learning to drive themselves to wonderful stories about her interactions with Queen Elizabeth… she reminds us that the high political families are still people.

I think, in the United States particularly, we tend to put our presidents on a pedestal.  We treat them like kings or cult leaders and expect miracles.  But they’re people too.  With needs and feelings that all the rest of us have.  Your enjoyment of this book will likely also be affected by your political affiliations due to the deeply polarized nature of American politics.  But I just thought it was wonderful.  I feel I have a better understanding of the human challenges faced by the presidential families.

I wouldn’t say that Becoming is an inspirational masterpiece – I think that’s pointing the book in the wrong direction.  This book is important so young Black girls can see themselves in a world that feels unattainable.  I felt Becoming instilled more of a sense of compassion than inspiration.  This book is filled with hope, it’s filled with love.  It’s honest and kind.

Ratings Breakdown

Writing: ★★★ 1/2
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Sources: ★★★★★
Detail: ★★★★
Delivery: ★★★★
Subject: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

4 Star Rating


Do you ever read political memoirs? If so, which ones have you read, and what made you pick them up?  Tell me your favorites (but please stay civil) in the comments!

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