Being Our Best Selves
Why you should add Michelle Obama’s Becoming to your 2019 booklist
Isabela Villanoy STAFF WRITER
A new year entails a new set of resolutions and goals to fulfill. Some of you may have written a list of books you hope to read in 2019, or maybe some of you haven’t. Regardless, Michelle Obama’s latest memoir Becoming is definitely worth adding to your 2019 booklist, as it will help you realize your path and boost your personal growth in the new year.
“I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey. In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why…It’s not about where you get yourself in the end. There’s 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.” Taken from Michelle Obama’s Becoming, these lines perfectly summarize the essence of her memoir: a deep and honest reflection of Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama’s life as a daughter, wife, mother, feminist, and citizen of this world. The honesty in her writing reflects her humble beginnings as a woman who grew up in the South Side of Chicago. The strength and the grit in her words speak volumes about her empowering journey as a Princeton undergraduate and as the first African-American woman to be the First Lady of the United States. Her vivid memories of playing the piano in her great-aunt Robbie’s home as a child, having her first kiss as a teenager, and falling in love with Barack Obama during her junior associate years at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin are just a few of the many moments where Michelle shows her down-to-earth, warm, and witty personality.
As an undergraduate student trying to figure herself out in this world, I found resilience in her stories of loss and strength and in her stories of triumph. Michelle’s book is a compelling reflection on her moments of triumph and defeat, as well as an inspiring exploration of individuality and family. Through this book, one can understand her personal narrative as she reveals the intimate truths about her life. Instead of providing teasers from her book, I’d like to share two big lessons I’ve learned after reading Becoming that will hopefully encourage you to read Michelle’s book:
1. Never stop striving to become the best version of yourself.
One of my biggest takeaways from the book is that we are only given one life to live. Since life is short and temporary, we shouldn’t waste time regretting our previous mistakes or decisions. Rather, we need to use these past choices as fuel to keep moving forward. We can never be who we truly are if we stay where we are. Therefore, we need to constantly find ways to grow and become better people in our own way. In an interview with Oprah about Becoming, Michelle says that her journey is “the journey of always continually evolving.” She continues by writing, “I’m still becoming, and I hope all of us know that we are constantly evolving. So, this is the story of my journey of becoming and hopefully it will spark conversations among a lot of people, especially young people, about what their journeys look like.”
2. We are never alone on this journey of becoming.
Becoming is not only Michelle’s way of reflecting about her past, but also her way of thanking the people who have loved, guided, and mentored her along her journey of becoming. The relationships and friendships she fostered made me realize that the stories we write about ourselves are never fully complete without the presence of others’ stories interwoven with our own. As humans, we are inherently called to share in the beautiful, heartbreaking, confusing, and exciting experiences this world has to offer. Michelle’s story about her motherhood as she and Barack went through the uphills and downhills of raising a family is, for me, one of the best examples of this idea.
Just like any book that is published, Michelle Obama’s Becoming has received both positive and negative feedback on the internet. However, instead of focusing on her political background and her perspective on certain issues, I think it is best to read her book as a story about a woman’s strength and candour in the face of inequality, racism, and public criticism. This memoir presents her as an effortless storyteller who can make you laugh, cry, smile, or feel all these emotions at the same time. For those who are looking for a new book to read in 2019, give Becoming a chance. And for those who are searching for meaning, direction, or purpose in the new year, maybe Michelle could be the voice that will encourage you to pause for a moment, contemplate your life journey, and ask yourself this simple question: are you constantly trying to become the best version of yourself?