As Michelle Obama’s highly anticipated memoir “Becoming” arrives, it’s clear that the former first lady is occupying a space in the culture beyond politics. With an arena book tour featuring A-list special guests, she seems to exist in the middle ground between two icons she calls friends, Oprah Winfrey and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. Her approach is short of Winfrey’s full-on confessional style but goes further than the guarded intimacy of Knowles-Carter’s art and performances.
Her book walks a similar line. It’s revealing, right down to the glossy cover photo in a casual white top – one shoulder exposed, eyes bright. (Spoiler: It’s not the kind of shirt a soon-to-be political candidate wears.) But Obama, who was famously guarded as first lady, still values her privacy – even as she offers frank opinions about Donald Trump and discloses past fertility struggles.
“I don’t think anybody will be necessarily prepared to read a memoir like this – especially coming from a first lady,” said Shonda Rhimes, the television producer, who read an advance copy of Obama’s book.
The first-lady memoir is a rite of passage, but Obama’s is different by virtue of her very identity. “Becoming” takes her historic status as the first black woman to serve as first lady and melds it deftly into the American narrative. She writes of the common aspects of her story and – as the only White House resident to count an enslaved great-great-grandfather as an ancestor – of its singular sweep.
In the 426-page book, Obama lays out her complicated relationship with the political world that made her famous. But her memoir is not a Washington read full of gossip and political score-settling – though she does lay bare her deep, quaking disdain for Trump, who she believes put her family’s safety at risk with his vehement promotion of the false birther conspiracy theory.
“The whole (birther) thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed. But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks,” she writes. “What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”
Donald Trump speaks to the media at Pease International Trade Port on April 27, 2011 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire after U.S. President Barack Obama’s released his original birth certificate.
It is the most direct and personal language she’s used about Trump.
The Washington Post obtained an early copy of Obama’s book, which will be released Tuesday. Even those who have followed Obama’s life closely in the decade and a half since her husband was a relatively unknown Illinois politician will come away with fresh understanding of how she sees the world and the people and experiences that shaped her.
She divides the memoir into three parts: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, Becoming More. The first section is a deep, often sociological exploration of Chicago …read more