Behind every great man is an even greater woman – or at least that’s the version my Mum always told me. Barack Obama, America’s first African American President, has firmly cemented his place in history but standing triumphantly alongside him every step of the way is his wife, Michelle. While President Obama was busy running the free world, our eyes turned to Michelle: advocating for healthier food in school lunches on The Ellen Show, planting a veggie garden on the White House lawn, belting out some carpool karaoke with James Corben. And the world fell in love with her.
But before she was Michelle Obama, First Lady, she was Michy Robinson, a young girl growing up on the southside of Chicago. Becoming is Michy Robinson’s story just as much as Michelle’s. We’re taken on a candid and intimate journey through her life, from her childhood in Chicago to her time at Princeton and Harvard (what, you thought one Ivy League education was enough?) to her time as a lawyer back in the Windy City. I was surprised by how moved I was by these recollections, which were often poignant, then funny, then sarcastic, then funny again. For instance, recounting her first time meeting Barack had me in stitches, “Charming, and cute…but absolutely not dating material.”
And of course, drizzled liberally throughout is plenty of anecdotal wisdom and advice. As a white man who grew up in Queensland, one might not think there would be a lot that would resonate with me in Michelle’s story. And sure, maybe I can’t relate to my husband being rushed away to classified meetings that will determine the future of democracy in the world, but I absolutely can empathise with the feelings of loyalty and compassion, the desire to push yourself and succeed, the challenges of balancing a professional and private life that underpin Michelle’s life.
I’m a big fan of autobiographies, but occasionally I get the sense that an editor has cleaned up the writing to the point that it might as well be co-written. This is simply not the case with Becoming. As Michelle walked me through her childhood, her time at college, and her time sleeping in the most famous, whitest house in the world, I felt I was being offered a glimpse at the woman behind the public figure, and I really liked what I saw. Now that the occasionally restrictive role of First Lady is behind her, Becoming feels like a sigh of relief for Michelle, an opportunity to tell her story in her own terms.
Unsurprisingly, Becoming was the highest selling hardcover of 2018. It was my personal favourite biography of the year, and it has “become” one of my favourite books. Find your copy at QBD today.
- Jack, QBD Brisbane City