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The Biggest Takeaways From Michelle Obama’s Becoming

Becoming, Michelle Obama’s autobiography and the tour she’s using to launch it, is taking off! Tickets upwards of $100 are selling out from state to state, and Becoming is sitting comfortably in its spot on the NY Times Best Seller list.

What’s the press saying? Major media is reporting on everything from what the former First Lady has to say about the current seated President, to whether or not the book is a political one (it isn’t). The conservative leaning/often ridiculous, New York Post published an article suggesting that profit made as a result of the book tour are somehow hypocritical (of course) -

as though a woman who meticulously exercised what Obama recently referred to as “soft power” at Denver’s Pepsi Center; planting an organic vegetable garden at the White House that sparked a conversation around the importance of local foods and transparency in food labeling (a battle still being fought), and initiated policy set on ending childhood obesity within a generation, wouldn't find a creative way to make sure her book tour would be accessible (more on that later!)

 Michelle Obama's BecomingImage Credit: Tyler Callahan

With all of the conversations about the book currently circling the internet, we here at D’IYANU decided to give our two cents on the biggest takeaways from Becoming. Here are the reasons you’ll be buying the book if you haven't yet, and maybe a little inspiration for your day!

Make your presence matter for you.

Getting real about her presence - her body and the physicality of emotions that come up during an argument, or the way her body occupies space in the sense of remembering the “everyday drain of being a deep minority” at Princeton, Michelle Obama gives us a look at living in her own body that, in one way or another, probably seems relatable.

By giving us insights into individual experiences and choices such as undergoing in vitro fertilization to have the family she imagined for herself, healing after a miscarriage, or reconsidering her work in corporate law at Sidley Austin before ultimately making the decision to move into the public sector as an advocate for children and the community present on Chicago’s South Side - Michelle gives readers permission to check in with ourselves; to remember the our bodies are powerful and so are the things we feel emotionally.

What can you come back from, what are you willing to go through, and where can you do the most good? Answers to these questions all relate to an awareness of your presence.

 Michelle Obama's BecomingImage Credit: Caique Silva

Even the most public love is private.

From irritation to what she calls a “toppling blast of lust”, Becoming provides us with personal views of Barak from the eyes of someone who knows him intimately. Yes, the book is about Michelle, but through her discussing the other Obama and the journey of their relationship (not as we know it but as they do) we are granted recontextualization of a human man who also happens to be the former President, through the lens of love and years of living and working together as partners.

 Michelle Obama's BecomingImage Credit: Makayla Ostapa

Doing well doesn't mean forgetting where you came from.

Michelle Obama talks about the South Side of Chicago with pride when talking about her upbringing, even as the current leadership of this country would rather see it as external, something foreign, i.e., Chiraq or the “run down slum” Michelle’s own elementary school was labeled as by the Chicago Defender at the height of white flight (her diverse classroom settings were 100% non-white by the time Obama, then Michelle Robinson, was in fifth grade, a prelude to the Chicago of today, one of the most segregated cities in the United States), where resources are everything but equal, and despite the protests of students and parents alike, almost 50 schools were shut down in a year with no plan to replace them.

Michelle’s contradictory and effortless allegiance to where she grew up stems from just that, growing up there. Knowing the hard working people, and reminding us all of their humanity and who they might be, who any of us from anywhere might be, if given opportunity and support.

Michelle Obama's Becoming Image Credit: Sai de Silva

Your passions are as important as anyone’s expectations.

Michelle knew she wanted to leave corporate law before making the decision to do it. What kept her going back and forth is something that may have kept you from making a decision based on what you know is right for you: your parents sacrifices.

We think about who made it possible for us to reach an opportunity more than what it would mean for us to take the opportunity sometimes. Or is that just us?

Thinking about the sacrifices of others from a place of gratitude is wonderful, however, falling into a trap of thinking that our parents or anyone who has made sacrifices for us did so so that we could be less than everything we are called to be from the inside is, more than likely, a mistake. 

Authenticity doesn't have to look like what anyone expects.

In a recap from Vanity Fair, critic Sonia Saraiya says that “Sometimes Obama wants to have her South Side groundedness and her G20 poise at the same time, and it doesn't quite work that way.”

Why not?

None of us are just one thing. The fun friend, protective mother, and valuable employee or entrepreneur you are may not mesh for someone looking in from the outside, but that doesn't make any part of you more or less real. Obama’s presentation of herself as multifaceted, is called double talk, by a woman who also professes confusion around the structure of the book or Michelle’s tendency to bring thoughts and lessons into new context by introducing those lessons and thoughts separate from when they may have hatched - instead presenting them as full circle, in light of knowledge gained through experience and exposure; necessities for a kid from the South Side of Chicago, then and now.

 Michelle Obama's BecomingImage Credit: Humphrey Muleba

Women’s stories have power!

Which is why you’re here!

Persistence and endurance are essential to making change, for country or community, and definitely for yourself. The former first lady talks about “a universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you came from and where you want to go.” If this concept seems even vaguely familiar, then you can likely find comfort and maybe a little direction in the words “In life, you can control what you can.”

What can you do with what you have now? An understanding of where you came from is not a commitment to stay (or go), but it could be essential in telling you who you are, and knowing yourself means knowing your strengths, the things that are going to take you where you want to be.

For Michelle Obama, that place is filled with options made possible by security. Having those options means that while she can not control how media outlets criticize the monetary success of her book tour, she can make sure that the events are more accessible to more people from more backgrounds and levels of economic opportunity by making a decision to give away 10 percent of tickets for each scheduled appearance, and at the end of the day, one of these things means a lot more.

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