An avid reader all my life, at this point I’m quite selective about what I read – I mostly enjoy historical books or novels, some thrillers and the occasional biography or autobiography, in which case I enjoy reading stories of prominent women. One of my favourites was Benazir Bhutto’s autobiography that she wrote a few years before her tragic death. I was already a fan and became even more so – suffice to say that Benazir was the first woman to become prime minister in a Muslim country. She was an indomitable lady who fought for her ideals and her country – and paid a high price.
When I heard that Michelle Obama’s autobiography was on print I was curious about it and was lucky that I was given it for Christmas. By the time I began to read it I had already seen a few negative reviews but I was never one to be influenced so I went through the book with an open mind as I always do.
Had I lived in the States I would have voted for Barack Obama for he seemed to be a truthful person, who really believed he could make some difference in people’s lives. In a world where many politicians seem to be – unfortunately – liars and corrupt, I believed Barack Obama was different. His wife Michelle I saw as an outspoken woman, a First Lady with a successful career unlike most of her predecessors – with the exception of Hillary Clinton of course.
When I opened the book I remembered Michelle Obama for speaking out for several causes namely that of women and education; for championeering the cause of healthy food and planting a vegetable garden in the White House; for apparently committing a huge “gaffe” with Queen Elizabeth II by touching her arm when it’s not allowed by protocol; and also for appearing to form a very happy couple with her husband – one could see that by their holding hands or smiling at each other.
In the book I discovered a young girl who would not accept the fate reserved for most girls of her neighbourhood; a girl with a supporting and loving family and with the ambition to become (hence the title Becoming) so much more; a hard working, but also fun loving girl who was not afraid to speak up for what she believed was right; and a girl who grew into a woman who was highly committed to her community and who tried to improve the lives of others, not just her own.
This is in fact very clear throughout the whole story: Michelle Robinson (her maiden name) wants to climb the social ladder but never giving up on her beliefs and always trying to help others do the same, most of all coloured women and girls who were the victims of the most discrimination. She is a staunch supporter of education as a way to empower girls and women allowing them to escape poverty and subjugation.
When Michelle meets Barack we can see they are soul mates for they have many goals in common; even if his ambition aims much higher as does his will to serve his country and countrymen. Soon this woman realizes she will have to sacrifice much to be with this man but she finally accepts this as “part of the package”.
Michelle is career-driven but she will exchange a highly paid job as a lawyer for a much less glamorous and profitable one working for the community; she also faces dramas common to many women such as infertility – one I can relate to – and conciliating a demanding professional life with motherhood as her IVF treatments finally allow her to have her precious daughters. As her story unfolds we find a flesh and blood woman, one we can easily relate to, that by chance became the First Lady of the United States. A woman who never planned to to get there, a woman who was not dazzled by her status, a woman who was always conscious – and in fact looked forward to it – that one day it would all go back to normal (as much as it is possible to go back to normal after having been President and First Lady during eight years of course).
I can honestly say I found Michelle’s story an interesting one. If I already warmed towards her – and her husband – I can say I now admire her more. She is undoubtedly a warrior, an intelligent lady and above all an independent one. I believe she never lost that independence nor will she ever. It is part of her essence.
In the end, no one can be indifferent to her. Physically she is very tall – as Queen Elizabeth once told her – even statuesque and quite elegant most of the time even if I found the yellow dress and tall glittering boots she recently wore at Sarah Jessica Parker’s TV program a bit too much. Still, what matters most I think is that she is a woman who has something to say; she has a strong message and she will pass it on no matter what. That’s what I find most interesting about her, and that’s why I really enjoyed her book.