Friday, December 14, 2018

Book Review: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

In a time when international politics can make your blood boil, your heart sink, and make you question your faith in humanity and democracy, reading the words of Michelle Obama are a welcome and reassuring voice of hope, logic, and dignity. Her book "Becoming," released by Crown Publishing Group (a division of Penguin Random House) last month immediately topped every best-seller list. Naturally.

Michelle Obama has become a face--and spirit--of strength, comfort, and progress for many of us watching her career, her movements, and her family over the past decade or more. She represents the grace that is fitting for a First Lady, as well as a relatability required in a trusted friend or mentor. Throughout her years in the White House, and even now her years beyond the intense political spotlight that the highest office in America holds, she is still someone worth emulating and praising.

Like most, I knew Michelle Obama as the super-healthy, Ivy League-educated, fun-loving, intelligent, and fierce matriarch of the beloved Obama family. I've seen her speak on behalf of her husband to crowds of thousands at rallies, she's jammed with the likes of Ellen and others on national television, and she made it hip to be fit and health-conscious. She showed us all that despite being under the most excruciating pressures and unshakable spotlight, that she could still function as a lovable and classy lady, with the nation's best interests always firmly placed in front of her.

It was great to now go back in time and learn the fine details of the life of Michelle Robinson Obama, to see her family upbringing, the nuances of her childhood, and how she always worked hard, believed in education, and had a spirit of steel as she navigated her way from the south side of Chicago, to a corporate legal position. I never knew the in's and out's of her life until now, and I truly feel that I am better of now that I am up to speed. Her parents and her brother Craig are a tight group of solid folks, and a great example for all.

A few particular things in this book stood out for me, in defining the overall character and legacy of Mrs. Obama to date. First and foremost: her love for her husband and family, and her ability to use the bigger picture as the compass for her decisions and actions. I also admired her dedication to education, and how her parents stood behind her 100% as she achieved her academic goals...yet never let this define her. When she found herself in a high-paying, comfortable job as a lawyer, and was on track to becoming a potential law firm partner...she still followed her instincts, and returned to community work. She never chased the money: she chased her passion.

To this date, I also admire her resiliency, and the way she conducted herself with utmost dignity and pride. Even a couple weeks ago at the funeral of George H.W. Bush when she (albeit, tight-lipped) greeted U.S. President Donald Trump with a polite "good morning" and a handshake, I had to give her credit for not cussing out his b*******t (insert Jamaican expletive here), and instead taking the high road.

When they go low, we go high! That's her catch phrase, and as many times as I've heard Michelle and even Hillary Clinton repeat it in unison with crowds, to see her LIVE it is a true marker of her seriousness. Michelle Obama is a thinking lady, and every action is a result of planning, calculation, and with the intention of influencing the greater good.

I won't even tarnish my feel-good vibe right now, griping about the circus clown and his entourage of fools that currently take up space in the nation's capitol, and make my blood pressure soar with every headline. In fact, I couldn't have read this book at a better moment in history because I need to be reminded of how even in the worse possible circumstances, with the right mentality and the right heart, you can push through and survive anything.

Even this current political climate. Yikes.

The biography of Michelle Obama should be a must-read book for young women, because of the lessons it inherently pushes in how to be lady-like, yet still be a boss. How to take control, yet how to also yield control when necessary. How to empower others, and how to motivate yourself. Particularly from the perspective of a women, it is important to see how Michelle was the ultimate right-hand to her husband Barack throughout their courting, marriage, and time in the White House, yet she still never lost herself in his shine. She was his rock, just as he was hers.

I appreciate how supportive she was of her husband, and how she often even put her own priorities on temporary pause to ensure that the equilibrium of her family and the greater goal were maintained. She wasn't bitter or miserable. She didn't complain or make a fuss. She expressed her concerns appropriately, and with power. Overall, she was a ride-or-die companion to Barack on his journey, and she realized the importance of the moment in history they were creating day-by-day. Michelle didn't pout and leave Barack to figure it out on his own: she lifted him up, and she formed her own team to ensure that her own voice and aspirations were not lost. Her was also her ride-or-die.

All while maintaining a comfortable balance for their girls, Malia and Sasha, growing up under ultra-extraordinary conditions with secret service agents shadowing their every move, and cell phones popping up at every corner to capture their adventures. The legacy of those girls has remained untarnished, and they have managed to come of age under intense scrutiny, yet somehow privately, thanks to the monitoring and careful guidance of their mother.

The book "Becoming" is a long read, at just over 400 pages, but a beautiful and captivating story of love, of romance (I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the courtship of Michelle and Barack), as well as a story of creating a strong family and maintaining balance by also giving back, and contributing to society with intention and good will.

Her book sales have been record-breaking, and "Becoming" is the top seller for 2018, to no surprise. Her book tour had a successful run over the past month, featuring other phenomenal ladies on stage with Michelle, as she discusses her book and the related lessons. Good news was released this week, for those (like me) who were unable to secure tickets to the first leg of Michelle's "Becoming" book tour: new dates have been released for 2019, and tickets go on sale tomorrow (December 15) via her book/tour website: She'll touch down in Toronto next May 4, and I'm sure the words of her book and the example of her spirit have already motivated 19,000 lucky supporters to secure their tickets to attend. Here's the link to order tickets to "Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama." (Word of the wise: log in at 10 a.m. on the dot, or kiss those tickets goodbye!)

I thank God for a woman like Michelle: someone to look to for positive examples, and someone who is keen and still exhibits endearing human emotion. As a mother, an academic, a community-leader, a supportive wife, and as a conduit for change and inspiration amongst many, she has proven to be one of the most effective icons of our generation. Standing next to a formidable character like Barack can't be easy, but she has held her own every step of the way, and has consistently exhibited the qualities and determination of a great leader.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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