"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, March 29, 2019

BECOMING by Michelle Obama---Some random thoughts and insights

Last Sunday night I had the distinct pleasure to attend a Michelle Obama book event at the Tacoma Dome. The event had been scheduled long before and then rescheduled due to snow in February. My husband, sister Kathy, mom, daughter Rita, and friend Margaret attended with me. We made it into a celebration, dining before the event on pizza and chatting with people we stood near in line. My mom, who can make friends with anyone, struck up a conversation with three gals standing in front of us. All were hugging Michelle Obama's book to their chests, hoping to get a chance to have her sign them at some point in the evening. My husband ran into a co-worker and her husband, who is a public school librarian. My sister, daughter, friend, and I are all teachers, so we started chatting with him while my husband spoke to his colleague. There was an air of enthusiasm and anticipation in the air. Even the long line to get through security did little to dampen our moods.

When Michelle and her host for the evening, Jimmy Kimmel, stepped out on stage thirty minutes late (due to the aforementioned security lines, no doubt) we all cheered and wept for joy. To be in the same room with this woman felt like privilege and honor. I wanted to take notes so I could remember everything, but I held myself in check. That would be such a teacherish thing to do. Anyway, here are a few of my thoughts and insights from the evening and her book, sans notes---

---A reviewer of the book BECOMING, Afua Hirch for the Guardian, said there is an irresistible light in Michelle Obama. I would agree. Even from our vantage point far from the stage, her light shone throughout the room. It is almost unbelievable how warm, kind, and funny she is.

---In her book, Michelle Obama describes an almost idyllic life growing up on the South Side of Chicago. As she started campaigning for her husband she came to realize that her most valuable tool was to relate her story with the people she met along the way that seemed like her family. There was a moment during the campaign, which she described in the book, where she was sitting in someone's living room. She looked around at the doilies on the tables. The doilies reminded her of her great-aunt and it was at this point that she realized we are all the same, really. It changed the way she campaigned.

---Ta-Nahesi Coates, the author of Between the World and Me, a book of advice from a black father to his black son, attended one of Michelle's events and wrote that he “almost mistook her for white”, comparing her  to “an old stevedore hungering for the long-lost neighborhood of yore... In all my years of watching black public figures, I’d never heard one recall such an idyllic youth.” (Guardian) Michelle has embraced her story and in the process may help us to embrace our own.

---For all her remembrances of an idyllic youth, there was one event which Michelle did recount when her older brother was riding a new bicycle and was pulled over by the police. He did nothing wrong but he got pulled over because a black kid couldn't possibly have a new bike. Craig talked the officer into taking him home to ask his mother, which he did. Later their mom insisted that she and Craig go to the police station to demand an apology from the officer, who gave them one.

---Jimmy Kimmel was funny but I think Michelle was funnier. She poked fun at Barack the most. At one point Kimmel asked her how her husband's memoir was coming along and she joked that she got a lot of the good stories since hers came out first. From the book I remember a lot of comments about Barack's tardiness and blowing through deadlines.

---She didn't talk much about this at the event last Sunday, but the book made it clear that Michelle needs and wants to have a purpose. When she became the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) she could have melted into the background, finding times to make her husband look good and fading back, but that wasn't for her. Since no one was telling her what to make as her projects, she decided to pick things that were important to her---Military families and health issues related to poor food choices and lack of exercise of youth and children. She accomplished remarkable participation and changes by leading by example and finding ways for companies and organizations to piggy-back on her themes. For example, the NFL Play 60 encouraging kids to go outside and play for an hour every day came about because of a collaboration with Michelle. She continues with project aimed at making the world a better place. One project which is going worldwide is called 'Let Girls Learn.' Now that is a project I can get behind.

---As the evening event was coming to a close, all six people in my party were struck with a feeling of nostalgia. We had the wonderful Obamas and now we have the awful Trumps. As Michelle talked about her last day in the White House she said she just broke down and cried. Jimmy Kimmel quipped, "So did I." So did I. I'm remembering that awful Wednesday in November when we all got up to a new America. All I could do was cry, too. In fact, for several weeks I couldn't even watch anything on TV except old Jane Austen movies. I didn't want to face the reality of an America in the grips of the most selfish man alive, after being in a country run by the most selfless president and his wife, Barack and Michelle Obama.

---I listened to BECOMING on audiobook. Michelle Obama is the narrator. It was such a special experience hearing the stories of growing up, falling in love, raising children, and becoming FLOTUS in her own voice. I recommend it.

---One odd, dissonant note prior to the Sunday event...we were greeted, before we entered the dome, by people standing on the street corners holding signs telling us we were going to go to hell. (If we, what, went to the Michelle Obama event?) It was so odd, and of course, judgmental, so opposite of what the evening was about---acceptance, love, and making a difference.

---I recommend that you read the book, or better yet, listen to it, AND, if you get a chance, attend one of Michelle Obama's book events. I understand she has extended her tour. Perhaps she is coming to a stadium near you. Honestly, a stadium. Can you imagine a book generating such passion that the events have to be held in huge venues? Just this week sales of her book topped 10 million (books, e-books, audiobooks combined) and is on its way to be the most popular memoir of all times. Don't be the last person to read it.

---Lastly, let's all stop and think for a minute why the book was titled BECOMING. I'm going to chew on that one for a while but I am guessing that Michelle would hope that we are "becoming" our true selves, too.
Waiting for the event to start. Margaret, me, Mom, Kathy, Rita (Don not in photo)
RHS Book Club selection May 2019


  1. I am so jealous that you got to go to this event; it sounds like such a wonderful evening. She really does radiate positivity, something that we are sorely lacking in the Trump administration.

    1. There's still a chance you can find a venue and attend with Michelle. The tour has been extended.

    2. I am reading her book and really enjoying it.

    3. Grace. I am glad that you are enjoying the book. It really opened my eyes.

  2. OK. You’ve convinced me. I’ll red it. 😊

  3. I loved the evening, and am loving the book as well. I consider becoming a synonym for growing, or remaining open to change and new experiences. Thank you SO much for taking me to the event! I'm still pondering the messages.

    1. I am so glad you could come with us on such short notice. It was better than trying to sell it to a stranger.

  4. First, I have to deeply and sincerely thank you for sharing moments from Michelle Obama's book and talk. I am not a big fan of memoirs; generally people who are celebrities are not good writers, and I hate reading poor writing. I wasn't planning to read this book, but now you have encouraged me to do so.

    "There was a moment during the campaign, which she described in the book, where she was sitting in someone's living room. She looked around at the doilies on the tables. The doilies reminded her of her great-aunt and it was at this point that she realized we are all the same, really. It changed the way she campaigned." I worked for the Census Bureau twenty years ago, and I had a similar experience. Being welcomed into people's homes and sitting with them and asking questions and recording their answers was a profound experience for me. Over and over, I told myself that this is what politicians need to do. This is what I want for Sunday Salon. I want it to be a place where we can hold little conversations with others, and share our experiences.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing details of your incredible and unforgettable evening with us! I have Becoming on audiobook and look forward to listening to it at the right time. I'm sure I'm going to love it, but also know that it's going to be a little devastating in regards to what we have lost. I still haven't been able to finish listening to What Happened...

  6. I'm a little behind on my commenting on blogs that I read regularly, but I really just wanted you to know that I read this. Like Helen, I am jealous but I look forward to reading the book sometime this year.

  7. I haven't yet read this, but this event sounds wonderful! Her book has just ecploded and you've covered so much just how engaging she is.


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