One would think that a book written by the former First Lady of the United States would not be relatable to a middle class couple living all the way in California. Not to mention that the husband and I hail from India from very middle-class backgrounds. And yet, that is the beauty of the human condition I suppose, for I felt many places in the book where I could nod along and think, “Lord! How often I have felt that way!”
The need to question whether one is good enough, and wanting to over-achieve believing that to be the only antidote to counter that feeling of not belonging for instance. The keen angst of youth as you overcome every small and large bump along the way is so beautifully written.
Or the very real struggles of raising children while holding down a full-time job and constantly feeling a bandwidth issue; tugged at by the veneer of the formerly ambitious career-oriented young woman who is now slightly at odds wondering why the career years, child-bearing and rearing years, all coincide in one large tug and pull. To read that sentiment written by a former first lady is both marvelous and what makes our country great.
Or the place where she writes about her young husband and his eternal optimism. I can so readily identify with that. While it is the wind of the husband’s optimism that sets our boat to sail, it is the cause of many veering off-courses as well. For instance, I laughed out loud and read out the following paragraph to the children who chuckled and said, “Appa!”
Becoming – By Michelle Obama
“On my way, I was learning, was he product of Barack’s eternal optimism, and indication of his eagerness to be home that did nothing to signify when he would actually arrive. Almost home was not a geo-locator but rather a state of mind. Sometimes he was on his way but needed to stop in to have one last forty-five minute conversation with a colleague before he got into the car.”
The children all laughed out loud at this, and the husband grinned sheepishly for there have been countless times when the good man has been so caught up in whatever he is doing, or talking to one colleague who caught him on the way out, that he lost track of time. It is now a well worn thread in our household. The good natured ribbing has taken multiple paths- “We know you are almost here Appa, and we believe you, but when does Google say you will get here?”
Michelle Obama’s keen intellect, solid grounding, and sturdy family values shine through in her writing.
There are passages that bring across the feeling of being African American in Chicago’s Southside that made me want to read these places again. I am sure there are plenty of good books dealing with these aspects of life in the United States. She writes about her husband – portraying him in a pragmatic human light (but again, after the 45th President, the 44th President with his middle class upbringing, scholarly attitude, and high sense of integrity seems like a dream.)
The book makes us realize that greatness while destined for some, the need to be motivated, live the best possible lives we can, while holding true to our intellectual and moral integrity, is something we can all choose for ourselves.
Of course, the identify-with portions of the book ended with Becoming Me, and Becoming Us sections of the book. The final section of the Becoming More is something that only 45 families can relate to: Life in one of the world’s most famous addresses, The White House. Where life has parts of fairy-tale, power, ambition, noble intentions, inspirations, horror story, emotional wringing, the ugly and beautiful humanity of it all.
What a marvelous title : Becoming.
It captures the time-space continuum, and life’s journeys in one word.
Unrelated, but also a good read: Ta Nehisi Coates essay: here