91 pages 3 hours read

Michelle Obama

Becoming

Nonfiction | Autobiography / Memoir | Adult | Published in 2018

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

Becoming is a memoir by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States from 2008-2016, originally published in 2018. In addition to describing her time in the White House, Obama details her upbringing, her education, her work in community outreach, and her relationship with former president Barack Obama, all of which contribute to the process of becoming the woman she is today. Becoming was the bestselling book of the year in 2018 and received a Grammy for the Best Spoken Word Album; in 2020, Netflix made a documentary centering around Obama’s book tour. This guide is based on the Random House LLC 2018 edition.

Plot Summary

Michelle Robinson Obama details her childhood growing up in the South Side of Chicago with her parents, Fraser Robinson III and Marian Shields Robinson, and her older brother, Craig Robinson. A bright, determined student, Michelle is aided by relatives and teachers who support her intelligence and encourage her to aim higher than her working-class background and rapidly changing neighborhood.

Michelle attends Princeton University, then later Harvard Law School, where she notices a decided lack of diversity among her peers. Determined to make a success of herself, Michelle doesn’t take the time to pursue other interests; she stays focused on the path toward financial security and becoming a lawyer. After Michelle gets her dream job at a law firm in Chicago, she is surprised to realize how little the work means to her. However, it isn’t until intern Barack Obama arrives and introduces Michelle to his passion for community outreach that Michelle realizes where her true talents lie. After Barack and Michelle marry, Michelle takes a big leap—and a big pay cut—to pursue community outreach work. The Obamas have two daughters, Malia and Sasha, before Barack once again shakes up the family’s stability by beginning a career in politics.

When Barack runs for President of the United States in 2008, Michelle supports him but remains skeptical that a black man will be elected. However, on the campaign trail with Barack, Michelle sees firsthand the hope her husband’s message inspires. When Barack successfully becomes president, Michelle realizes that she will have to figure out how to navigate her role as First Lady under the harsh scrutiny of the public eye, all while dealing with racism and bigotry, trying to preserve her daughters’ childhoods, and attempting to promote real and lasting change.

After some trial and error, Michelle learns to direct the gaze of the public to the issues that matter most to her: military veterans and their families, childhood health and the Let’s Move! initiative, the White House Garden, education for young girls, and youth programs designed to encourage underprivileged students. Michelle fights to preserve normalcy for her daughters during their time in the White House while also striving to support a husband who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.

When Donald Trump is elected as the 45th President of the United States, Michelle is initially devastated. However, rather than wallowing in self-pity or defeat, Michelle continues to promote the message of hope, reminding her readers that change takes time and that America is still in the process of reaching its full potential. 

Related Titles

By Michelle Obama

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