Last year on Christmas Eve I got really sick with what I assumed was food poisoning. For more than three months since then, I’ve suffered from digestive issues. I’m never sure which days will be good or bad. I am sick at least once a week, sometimes for days at a time. I’ve seen a bunch of doctors, done more tests than I can count, but still have no diagnosis. From this experience I’ve learned that Gastroenterology is as much an art as it is a science, and digestive health issues are difficult to diagnose.
In the meantime, I’m tired, cranky, and my stomach hurts. So it’s been hard to keep up with this little blog, much as I would like to. Lately I’m reading books weeks and months behind the rest of the book blogging community. That’s okay. I didn’t start this blog to write about the newest or most popular books. Admittedly though, it feels a little funny writing a review about a book most people have already read.
In any case, if you happen to be one of a handful of people who has yet to read Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, I highly recommend you remedy the situation.
Becoming is a memoir that details Michelle Obama’s childhood in Chicago’s South Side, to her time at Princeton, the early years of her career and of motherhood, her time in the White House, and a glimpse of what life is like after the White House. It describes how she never liked Politics, and then fell in love with a man destined for Presidency. It is a book about family and friendship, about private life and life as a public figure. It is a book about the broken parts of America, and about how we can come together by listening to each other’s stories.
Have you ever heard someone summarize a book or movie by saying, “I laughed. I cried”? This is one of those books. It runs the gamut of emotions, dropping pearls of wisdom along the way. It’s funny, heartbreaking, hopeful, and wise. It thoroughly distracted me from my gastrointestinal pity party.
I think my favorite aspect of this book was the emphasis on why stories matter. Becoming is very much about storytelling, about owning our own personal histories, and listening to the experiences and perspectives of others. At one point, she touches upon this theme when she talks about seeing the Broadway musical, Hamilton:
“Hamilton touched me because it reflected the kind of history I’d lived myself. It told a story about America that allowed the diversity in. I thought about this afterward: So many of us go through life with our stories hidden, feeling ashamed or afraid when our whole truth doesn’t live up to some established ideal. We grow up with messages that tell us that there’s only one way to be American – that if our skin is dark or our hips are wide, if we don’t experience love in a particular way, if we speak another language or come from another country, then we don’t belong. That is, until someone dares to start telling that story differently”.
Michelle Obama’s book accomplishes the very same thing she found touching in Hamilton. It is a wonderful addition to the canon of American Literature.
I was tempted to quote the very last paragraph of her book, but I don’t want to ruin the ending. It’s powerful. I would love for this book, especially that last paragraph, to make it into every American home. It describes a beautiful way to live.