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Michelle Obama: An American story

November 20, 2018

Need a break from overconsumption this Thanksgiving, whether eating or buying? Try relaxing with a good book, one that will give you much on which to reflect and deliver a positive message in our turbulent times. We’d recommend Becoming, by former first lady Michelle Obama.

A trailblazer her entire life, this impressive daughter, wife, mother, lawyer, first lady and icon has more to offer as she sets the course for the rest of her life. Through her autobiography, we see how the young girl from the south side of Chicago grew up to attend Princeton and then Harvard Law, never giving up even when some doubted her capabilities.

She generously gives a glimpse of her courtship with a young Barack Obama, as well as recounts the struggles in their marriage when she miscarried and had to turn to in vitro fertilization to conceive her two daughters. Sharing that pain helps other women, other couples, feel less alone.

It’s important in a practical way, too, because many black women struggle with infertility but do not speak up about it. Belle Boggs, writing in the Atlantic, says, “African American women, who have higher rates of uterine fibroids, are almost twice as likely as white women to suffer from infertility. A recent study concludes that African American women wait twice as long as white women to see a doctor for infertility, and are less likely to seek treatment. This makes the news of Michelle Obama’s miscarriage and IVF treatment especially significant.”

That’s not all that is significant in this book. Like its author, Becoming is measured, graceful and laced with humor. But she pulls no punches, either. Obama relates that she will never forgive President Donald Trump for spreading lies about her husband’s birth: “Donald Trump, with his loud and reckless innuendos, was putting my family’s safety at risk. And for this I’d never forgive him.”

She is just as blunt about her horror at hearing the Access Hollywood tape on which the future president bragged about grabbing women’s genitals and her dismay on election night when she realized he would be elected. That night, she went to bed after she realized he was likely to become president: “I wanted to not know that fact for as long as I possibly could.”

Unlike her husband, Michelle Obama still is not a fan of politics. She says without equivocation that she will not run for political office and said in an interview with NPR that “politics felt mean.” She still believes that, even though, as a spokeswoman for her husband and on the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, she showed she could wow a crowd and deliver a stump speech with the best of them.

She understands, too, the power of her American story. Growing up in a working-class family, she had a bigger vision for her life and pushed to achieve those dreams. She put aside her dislike of politics to support her husband’s aspirations because, as a citizen, she knew he could do great things. She worked as first lady on important causes, supporting veterans and their families and improving the health of children through better nutrition and exercise. She served the country with grace and distinction and now, in private life, has written a book that reveals again the promise of America.

Too bad she doesn’t like politics. She remains a natural, inspiring with her intelligence, honesty and ability to speak to the heart.

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