Becoming Memoir of a Country





Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir is quite a revelation.

For example, when Barack Obama was the U.S. President from 2009-2017, he had at his fingertips, the power to start a nuclear war or react to one. 
Like other presidents before him, wherever he went he was followed by someone from the military who, as the author puts it was: “carrying a forty-five-pound briefcase containing launch authentication codes and sophisticated communications devices, often referred to as the nuclear football.  That was heavy.”
President Donald Trump is the current babysitter of those codes that can unleash weapons of mass destruction.  Michelle Obama found many things heavy, especially the loss of independence because the office of the President of the U.S. comes with human shadows designed to protect it. 
The book mentions secret agents, the different bullet proof cars and their responsibility and armed men on rooftops where the president is going to be, reminding me of Olympus Has Fallen directed by Antoine Fuqua.
What was also heavy for Michelle Obama was her daughters Malia and Sasha.  She constantly worried about them.  She wasn’t sure how living in a glass bowl would affect their development.  It turns out they adjusted pretty well.  After all, they were political babies.  Their father Barack Obama had been a senator in both the State of Illinois and the U.S. Senate in Washington.
The book has three chapters Becoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More.  The first chapter is the most important because it explains how the girl from Euclid Avenue in the South Side of Chicago became a teenager with good grades, went to Princeton and Harvard, became a lawyer, changed gears and left law to work in the non-profit sector and the City of Chicago.
This chapter pays homage to her parents Fraser and Marian Robinson for putting her and her brother Craig first.  “They never took beach trips or went out to dinner.  They didn’t own a house.  We were their investment, me and Craig.  Everything went into us.”  P. 60.
Michelle and Craig were tight then and still are.  She enjoyed the advantages of being the little sister of a popular guy on the block and at Princeton University. “He’d created sunshine that I could then just step into.” P. 56.
The author loves music, a legacy from her father Fraser Robinson, great aunt Robbie and her grandfather Shields, also known as Southside, whom she credits for her love for jazz.  “To me, Southside was as big as heaven.  And heaven, as I envisioned it, had to be a place full of jazz.”  P.10.
There are many lyrical sentences like this, something I don’t associate with memoirs because I expect them to be cold hard facts.  This is a plus because Michelle Obama got the book deal to chronicle her life as First lady of the United States.  That is why I bought it.  How does it feel like to be a White House tenant?
The bulk of the book however deals with what she wanted to do once she left law and Barack’s obsession with ‘income inequality’.  Make that politics.  She asked him one night why he was deep in thought and he said income inequality.          
Michelle Obama loves Barack Obama, so she compromised a word she wouldn’t use because he consulted her before every political leap and she maintains that she knew from day one that he was different, not interested in material possessions but bigger things, like voting to bring change to Chicago and Illinois, but she drew the line when it came to moving to Washington, to be a senator’s wife.
Michelle Obama’s parents kept encyclopaedias and schooled the young girl very early that they had information.  Becoming, is an encyclopaedia about the life of a woman, a man, people and a country.
It now sits snugly at home, side by side with Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, written by Barack Obama, the guy with income inequality on his mind.
By:  Nonqaba waka Msimang.

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