Feb 21, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
Michelle Obama is the most admired woman in America and her autobiography, Becoming, is number one on the New York Times Best Seller List. The book is truly an autobiography not a memoir because it is a chronological narrative beginning with her childhood and bringing us up to the present. We learn of her parents' struggle, her grammar school, her relatives and her father's battle with terminal illness. We are given street names and bus routes, special friends and side trips All this information is loaded with way too much detail. We know for sure that Michelle was precocious. When she gets to Princeton she delves into the character traits of her roommates, her social activities and her boyfriends one of whom enjoyed running across fields for no particular reason. After spending 100 or so pages on this type of minutia she is suddenly a Harvard lawyer working for a prestigious law firm. I thought perhaps I had skipped some pages the quantum leap was so abrupt. Was there something about Harvard that she doesn't want us to know about?
Things don't get really interesting until she meets Barack Obama. Having taken a couple of years off to be a community organizer, he is still in law school and she is his superior and charged to mentor him. They slowly develop a friendship and a relationship. They smoke pot and she spends many nights in his cramped bedroom. Even before they became lovers, she describes him in the most glowing and adulatory terms. Some may not agree with their political positions but none can cast aspersions on their marriage and their complete devotion to one another even though they did seek marriage counseling and struggled with fertility issues.
Michelle supported her husband's choices with grace but sometimes with a heavy heart. She always viewed the political process through a protective lens and with a jaundiced eye. She tried very hard to maintain some normalcy for her girls but the cruel jabs of the opposition penetrate her not thick enough skin. She worked hard on issues that usually had to do with education or nutrition. I can only imagine her extensive vegetable garden unattended and weed-bound. It would be a fitting metaphor for the current administration and the present obese occupant of the White House. She will never forgive Trump for the ludicrous "birther" madness that catapulted him into the spotlight. With stunned disbelief and horror she listened to the Access Hollywood tape. Her body "buzzed with fury" as she interpreted its meaning to be: "I can hurt you and get away with it." As harshly as she speaks of Trump, it is with great fondness that she remembers George and Laura Bush. She relishes the memories of their kindness when they showed them the ropes as the Obamas took over on Pennsylvania Ave.
Michelle was not a robotic, Stepford-wife type first lady like Melania nor was she strident and outspoken like Hillary. She lies somewhere in between these two extremes. For her, race never seems to be a blend of gray. All events appear to be perceived through an ebony black or alabaster white optic. The key to her story is dignity told with a voice that vacillates between deep humility to edgy hubris. In the end, she comes across as a strong role model, wife, and mother, an educated, attractive and vibrant woman.
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