Becoming by Michelle Obama

A Book Review


Susan Graham

I bought Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir because I had always liked her public persona and thought I would like her personal one. I was wrong. You really won’t like my review if you really want to love Michelle Obama no matter what. All I’m asking is that you read the entire book with an open mind before you criticize my critique.

First, let me get this out of the way. I am involved with advocacy for multiracial children. Barack Obama, Michelle’s husband, of course, is multiracial although he publicly self-identifies as black. Fair enough, but Michelle refers to him as a “hybrid” (page 98). I find that highly offensive. Hybrid is a term is usually used to refer to the offspring of animals or plants of different breeds. It is not normally used for humans, especially children. Shame on Michelle. He has referred to himself as a “mutt,” which is just as bad. Becoming, make no mistake, is about race. More about that later. Let’s stay on Barack Obama for a moment. He is the son of a black man and a white mother. He can say he’s black all he wants, it’s his choice, but if he or his children ever need a bone marrow donor, they will look to the multiracial community, no doubt about that. Michelle also writes that it’s “hard to pin down his ethnicity” on page 117. Huh? I think it’s pretty simple: his black father is from Kenya and his white mother is from Kansas.

This is a book filled with racial-speak on every page of the over 400-page book. Mrs. Obama assigns everyone a race based on her observations. Only once does Michelle Obama dare to breathe a word for a white woman with “mixed-race” grandchildren (page 244) and even then she can’t write “biracial” or “multiracial.” What’s wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you. Michelle doesn’t even entertain the thought of people not being multiracial. She clearly holds on to the old one-drop rule that one-drop of “black blood” makes you black. Biracial or multiracial people, especially children, don’t exist.

Every single reference in Becoming is about race. She makes certain to let us know that there are servants in the White House who are “African American” or “black.” It’s obvious that self-identification doesn’t count—its Michelle Obama identification. If someone is white, she uses euphemisms: blond, brunette, “sipping wine with wealthy women”: suburban, etc. Why does everyone in Michelle Obama’s world have to have a color introduction? Can’t we just be people? No, not in her world. Isn’t it the high road to treat everyone the same? How can we one day do away with racial categories if people like her keep pigeonholing everyone?

Michelle Obama grew up on the South Side of Chicago and sets out to prove that made a difference in her life—growing up middle-class black in what could be called a ghetto by some; she even refers to it that way. But let me tell you, she only proves that you can take the South Side out of the girl. An example of this is the $3,900 pair of thigh-high, gold sparkly boots she wore on the last night of her book campaign. She flaunted the pricey Balenciaga boots, which matched her Balenciaga dress. I’d say she’s come very far from the South Side.

It saddens me to think that Michelle Obama has segregated her world. Yes, it’s easy to do and I’m sure there are many people who haven’t even read the book, but who will disagree with me based on their perception of the writer of this book. It’s too bad.

I’m disappointed. I wanted to like this book and its author and I don’t. I came away from it thinking that when she goes low, the rest of us should go high.


Photo Credit: slideshare