Book review

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Statistics

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Biography, Non-fiction, Memoir

Length: 426 pages

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group- Penguin Random Publishing House

Date of Publication: 13th November, 2018

Rating: 5/5 stars


I have always admired the charm and restraint shown by the Obama family, not to mention their achievements. Ever since I discovered that Michelle Obama has written a memoir, I have wanted to read it. When my friend discovered that I wanted to read the book, she decided to surprise me with it and what a nice thing that was!


The Blurb

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments.

Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

The Book

I read very less of fiction and even less of biographies and autobiographies. They always feel like the author wants the reader to know just how amazing they are or how much they have suffered. So, although I was excited to read more about the Obamas and I knew that almost everyone who read the book ended up liking it, I was a bit skeptical.

The book is divided into three parts- Beccoming Me, Becoming Us and Becoming More. As you could probably guess, the 1st part deals with Michelle Obama as she grows from a young black child in South Chicago to a smart young woman educated in Harvard Law School. Her struggles are the struggles that every child who grows up in an impoverished neighbourhood faces. She describes herself as lucky for having parents who had high expectations of her and her brother which made them work hard and realise that the only way out of the stigma of South-side was to achieve something measurable in the eyes of the people who matter.

I was impressed at how much her mother supported her even at a young age where she gives an example of how her mother made sure that she was taken out of the class where a disinterested teacher was in charge. I was also surprised at how Michelle and her brother Craig did not resort to rowdiness despite the amount of freedom that they got from their parents. They were encouraged to handle things on their own and be their own person. May be the amount of trust that the parents placed on them, coupled with the lack of strict boundaries meant that the children did not feel the need to rebel. I was also surprised at the number of times Michelle changed her jobs, every time to do something for her community. It instilled in me the thought that everyone can contribute to the society and we can start small and one day become the first lady and reach millions of people.

In the second part, we see Barack Obama enter Michelle’s world like a hurricane. He brings with him his uncompromising ethics. His charm makes everyone gravitate towards him. I was a bit shocked at the way their relationship unfolded. Until then, it had not even occurred to me that we can build a relationship between two people who are so different. All that is needed is both parties understanding that this is how the other person is and not trying to change them. I was glad that Michelle stuck to her work ethics and stayed in Chicago with the children and did not become a mere Senator-Wife like many of her contemporaries. Her experience at the Senator-Wife lunch reminds me of all the army spouses whose sole purpose seems to be about supporting their partners. It is very rare that their needs are taken care of. It was heartening to see Barack Obama as a father, to see him put the little ones above all, even his political career. That sense of family was perhaps what served them all till the end.

While the second part of the book felt a little too long and slow to me, the third part was my favourite. Here we see both the adult Obamas in their stride. They know that they have an immense amount of responsibility thrust upon them and they cannot fail the millions of people who depend on them to be their voices. The little Obamas too handle the pressure and the media presence in their own way and begin to grow into strong little women. I wish that we got to read more of how things were with the children but I understand Michelle’s need to protect them from public scrutiny. For children who spent nearly their entire childhood in the media glare, they handled themselves brilliantly with not even a single awkward picture or story surfacing till date. This holds good for the entire Obama team right from the POTUS and FLOTUS to the grandmother, brother and every single staffer. The values and morals of the Obama team, their love for everyone, their need to create better opportunities for the underdogs, their focus on health and healthcare was motivating. I wish every aspiring politician would inculcate at least some of their values. It was a very moving and inspiring tale that had me in tears plenty of times.

The Author

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama is the wife of the forty-fourth President of the United States, Barack Obama, and is the first African-American First Lady of the United States.

She was born and grew up on the South Side of Chicago and graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. After completing her formal education, she returned to Chicago and accepted a position with the law firm Sidley Austin, and subsequently worked as part of the staff of Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley, and for the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Michelle Obama is the sister of Craig Robinson, men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University. She met Barack Obama when he joined Sidley Austin. After his election to the U.S. Senate, the Obama family continued to live on Chicago’s South Side, choosing to remain there rather than moving to Washington, D.C.


TL;DR: A moving and inspiring tale of two well brought up adults who raise well adjusted children while governing the entire nation brilliantly


Do you like memoirs?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Advertisements
Book review, Received for Review

Twenty-nine Going on Thirty by Andaleeb Wajid

Statistics

Format: PaperbackScreenshot_20180303-211922

Length: 242 pages

Publisher: Penguin Random House India

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Twenty-nine going on Thirty is to be released on March 8th, 2018 and I received an advanced reviewer’s copy. This book was doing the rounds on Bookstagram and caught my eye because of its beautiful cover. So when Penguin Random House India emailed me asking if I would want to review it, I jumped at the chance. I mean, its not everyday that Penguin notices you! The cover designed by Parag Chitale and cover photograph by Getty Images is very pretty and incorporates my two favourite things- food and books, so it was all a win-win.

The Author

Andaleeb Wajid dabbles in the Young Adult, Chick Lit and Fiction genres. Her other work includes-

  1. Blinkers Off– Published in 2011
  2. Kite Strings– Published in 2013
  3. My Brother’s Wedding– Published in 2013
  4. More Than Just Biryani– Published in 2014
  5. The Tamanna Trilogy
    1. No Time for Goodbyes– Published in 2014
    2. Back In Time– Published in 2014
    3. Time Will Tell– 2014
  6. When She Went Away– Published in 2015
  7. Asmara’s Summer– Published in 2016
  8. The Crunch Factor– Published in 2017
  9. eBooks
    1. Will the Oven Explode– Published in 2016
    2. It Waits– A horror published in 2017
    3. A Sweet Deal
    4. Night At The Warehouse

Blurb

Priya is turning thirty, and feeling overhelmed. Living in Bangalore with her best friend, Farida, and working as the social media head of a software firm, she’s weighed down by the thought of becoming a responsible thirty-year-old. To add to this, she also has to fend off her mother’s persistent queries about when she intends to get married. Things begin to look up when Priya bumps into her charming new neighbour, Ajay. Sparks fly, but she soon finds out that he’s a widower who has some baggage to deal with.

Thankfully, Priya finds comfort in the fact that her friends Farida, Mini and Namrata are approaching the three-O milestone too. Free-spirited Farida, shy Namrata, feisty Mini and Priya are brought together by family drama, boy trouble, and their fast-approaching birthdays. As they navigate love and friendships, they realise there’s a difference between growing up and growing old….

The Book

Twenty-nine going on Thirty is a story that deals with four women who are almost thirty years old and are dealing with all the judgement that comes the way of an unmarried girl late in her twenties. Priya, our main protagonist, has a job that she is good at but has to deal with her mother pestering her about her marital status. Mini, an intimidating Goth chick who chews men and spits them out has a broken heart that is proving difficult to get over. Farida, an easy going artist is hung-up on a childhood crush and does not find anyone else who can hold a candle to the man of her dreams. Namrata, the timid girl has trouble getting out of the clutches of her over-bearing family.

Stories that revolve around lives of software engineers seem to be the go-to setting for quite a lot of authors, especially the ones that are newly emerging. While the beginning of this book also seemed to go along a similar path, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it contained an interesting story and encompassed the emotions, feelings and interactions of a wide range of characters. It is well written and dealt bravely with the conflicts that every young adult faces in a very non-judgmental manner. The entry of men who seem too good to be true threw twists in the tale. The ending seemed a bit bollywood-esque with its usual corrupt relatives, thugs and the hospital drama but the book has several other redeeming qualities that make up for the last few pages.

What I liked

I was really pleased that Priya’s ‘traditional’ mother did not have a problem with her daughter liking a widower and even encouraged the relationship. The fact that it wasn’t even made into a big deal shows that people are finally emerging out of their preconceived notions about what a ‘proper’ relationship is. I wonder if Priya’s mother weighed the pros and cons of having an unmarried thirty-year-old daughter with having a daughter wed to a man with a child from his previous marriage and decided that the former was the lesser of the two evils. What also needs to be seen is if the same view will be taken if it is a girl who wants to re-marry following her husband’s death. One can only hope that women are given the same encouragement as men. I was glad that this was one of the key plots in my first book for March, paving the way to a women-oriented month for me.

What I did not like

I did not enjoy the character of Vinay, the office heartthrob. He seemed to be created out of a very common mold that every attractive male is made out of. His quick change in behavoiur towards Namrata before and after her makeover was a bit too creepy for me to digest and I wish that he wasn’t given such a major role in the story.

I also did not like the fact that the few Kannada words that were used were wrongly spelled. For example, “ayyo devara” in place of the correct “ayyo devare“. There was also the fact that Namrata, a Kannadiga calls her sister-in-law “Bhabi” which is definitely not something that is used in Karnataka. These seem to be a very simple things that should have been addressed with a simple consultation with a native Kannada speaker. As a person who likes facts to be right in any book that she reads and as a speaker of the language, these flaws made it a very uncomfortable read at times.

I really did enjoy the book and finished reading it in two days straight. There are not many books that manage to hold my attention that strongly. The characters made me feel comfortable and I could relate to a lot of their predicaments. I was really happy that it portrayed women in a positive light and depicted their strength in adverse situations.


TL;DR: A quick read with strong and relatable female characters set in a fast paced story.


What are some of the books that have strong female characters that you love?

Do you plan on reading women-oriented books or books by female authors this month?

What are your March Madness plans?

Tell me in the comments below or Instagram me @the_food_and_book_life