Becoming: Summary & Review

becoming book cover

Becoming is Michelle Obama’s autobiography of her life up until the end of her stay in the White House.

Becoming Summary

You can’t really summarize an autobiography, but I will give you here the bits and pieces that caught my attention the most and that are most relevant to a website like The Power Moves.

Don’t Ask “What Do You Wanna Be When You Grow Up?”

Michelle Obama says that one of the most useless questions you can ask a child is “what do you wanna be when you grow up”.

She says that it’s not like at some point you become something and you’re stuck with it. 
And I loved this part and heavily nodded.

It’s funny by the way how different languages also have that exact same expression.

Obama & Michelle Meet

  • Obama seemed assured of his direction and made Michelle feel even more insecure at times
  • Obama and Michelle met at work, and the unspoken bond between them was that “he was a brother” (almost everyone was white in the office)
  • Michelle was disgusted when Obama lit a cigarette after lunch
  • Michelle “swore off dating altogether” to dedicate herself to her career (typical lie people BTW)

Talking about smoking, Michelle Obama told Barack:

Why someone as someone as smart as you does something as dumb as that

Which sounds a bit like a shit test eheh. 
I would have replied:

Who says I’m smart

Instead, Obama told her she was right.

  • Obama told Michelle they should go out
  • In the following days, Obama laid out the reasons why they should go out (ie.: compatibility, making each other’s laugh, etc.) 
  • Obama asked Michelle if he could kiss her (facepalm 🙂

Obama seems like he has a strong secure attachment style.

Obama & Michelle’s Relationship

Soon after that kiss, all her reservations started falling away and Michelle starts falling for Obama. 

  • Obama told her how beautiful she was
  • Obama made Michelle feel good
  • Michelle thought Obama was a unicorn to the point of being almost unreal
  • Obama never talked about material things like buying a new house or shoes
  • Obama loved books, reading even late at night while she slept
  • During their relationship work felt like a distraction for Michelle (so much for the woman who wasn’t going to date to focus on her career 🙂
  • Obama said marriage was an unnecessary and overhyped convention (Obviously he changes his mind :)
  • For Michelle marriage was a given and she was sometimes worried about her different views (of course she was LOL)
  • Obama wasn’t opposed to marriage, but for him, their love was great as it was (typical difference between men and women BTW)

Obama in Politics

  • Michelle secretly hoped Obama’s political career would sputter so he would stay more at home with the family
  • When at home, Obama was fully present though, listening, playing with the children, and reading them stories
  • Obama would sometimes indulge Michelle by watching Sex & The City (damn! Is that a favor to do? Sex & The City is AWESOME!)
  • Obama was a bit pie in sky kind of guy, believing that his book would solve all their financial problems (more typical of men having more faith in their dreams)
  • Michelle was more pragmatic and realistic (typical of women, of course)
  • Both were nervous the first time they were speaking in front of people
  • When Oprah Winfrey interviewed Obama, Michelle wondered “what the hell is happening now”. Little later, he was elected to the Senate
  • Obama told people that running for the presidency was a family decision and that Michelle would also decide
  • Michelle Obama eventually decided that Obama was good for America and she couldn’t be so selfish to stop him (very wise and kind of her)

Presidency Campaign

  • The media frames Michelle as angry and resentful. In defending herself she starts acting more angry and resentful, and she reflects on how many black women have been caught in that trap (makes sense, same as what happens with gaslighting in abusive relationships)
  • The political games and power moves were taking a toll on Michelle. Sometimes she blamed Obama’s campaign for her woes 
  • Her instinct was to hit back and answer blow by blow on accusations but the campaign’s team told her to let it go (wise decision of course)

In The White House

Barbara and George Bush were very nice to the Obamas. 
Michelle Obama could sense that George W. Bush was glad they had arrived to take over and he could finally retire from political life. 

  • George W. Bush was kind and had a genuine appreciation for the country that she always admired
  • They had federal funds available to redecorate the house, but Barack insisted they’d do it on their own dime
  • The security in the White House was crazy, encompassing all aspects of life and including the whole family
  • But Michelle says the security for the family is in the end only to protect the president and his emotional and mental well being
  • Michelle was uncomfortable with the change, and so was Obama. But Obama was happy he had to do nothing for the house’s upkeeping 🙂
  • It’s costly to live in the White House: the president has to pay for all the items (not utilities, but yes for toilet paper, food, and guests)
  • Obama asked for some food and they later found they were being flown from overseas and were super costly (LOL, couldn’t imagine the president’s family worrying about food prices 😀 )
  • Michelle was a bit peeved by the media’s attention to her clothes and how they took precedence to what she said
  • She met the queen of England and said:

“there is a certain awkwardness that comes with every arranged meeting”

Interesting to see that even seasoned politicians can find it awkward to shoot the breeze.

  • When they left the White House Michelle wondered if it must have been sad for Obama to finally be free when their daughters were just launching (which made me think these two weren’t always forthcoming with each other if she had to guess?)
  • Michelle was horrified by Trump’s lewd comment about him assaulting women. She says Trump was a bully
  • And this is where she came up with her famous sentence “when they go low, we go high”

Which actually Trump did rather well against Hillary:

  • Michelle says that dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization (which is not really true as a general rule, but it’s true that it was really poor and low the way Trump talked about it)

Curiosities About Michelle Obama

  • Among the luxuries, she allowed herself was a wine subscription (nice, you go girl! 🙂
  • Michelle visited Kenya naively believing that she’d feel some kind of “back to the roots”, motherland feeling of completeness, but she was -and felt- a foreigner there (naive thought indeed)
  • Being a stranger African-American in Africa made her feel like she was a stranger everywhere, making her sad
  • Michelle Obama visited Kibera, the biggest urban African slum (which yours truly also visited)
  • Obama’s relatives asked Michelle which one of her parents was white and she replied that she was “black through and through, basically as black as they come” (LOL)
  • Michelle Obama did pushups with Bishop Desmond Tutu, author of “The Book of Joy
  • Michelle Obama won’t run for office (damn the Republicans would have gone crazy with that 🙂

Becoming Quotes

(…) To the cold morning this winter when I climbed into a limo with Melania Trump accompanying her husband’s inauguration. 

It feels like that “cold” is not just referring to the temperature :).

I understood that I had choices (..) just go back to my toys at home, or I could just shut her up (…) the next time DeeDee made one of her remarks I just lunged for it. summoning everything my dad had taught me about how to throw a punch.
The two of us fell to the ground fists flailing and legs thrashing.
“At least, I earned her respect”

It looks like when they go low Michelle Obama didn’t always go high :).

Even with a challenged sense of style, Barack was a catch


Even white people were recognizing him now

Talking about increasing’s fame :).

Johm McCain had done himself no favor in choosing Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. Inexperienced and unprepared she had quickly become a national punchline

LOL indeed, Sarah Palin must have been the worst vice president’s choice ever.

becoming book cover

Becoming Criticism

This is what I liked less about Becoming by Michelle Obama:

Obsessed With Race & Colors

I didn’t count how many times Michelle Obama said “black”, “color”, “white” and “black woman”, but if anyone counted them.. I’m sure it would be a lot.

When she took the elevator of the White House she took care to notice that the man using who operated the elevator was a black man in a tuxedo.
It felt unnecessary.
Did she want to make a reference that the black man in a typical white house was the servant? With Michelle Obama’s obsession with colors and races, it might not be far-fetched. 

Partisan (Disguised as Bipartisan)

There is no shame in being on the left side of the political spectrum, a Democrat, a Republican, or however people want to define themselves.

But it’s when you are a partisan pretending to be bi-partisan that it feels a bit sneaky.

Commenting on Trump she was disgusted seeing him “stalk” Hillary during the debate, diminishing her presence with his and getting away with it. As if he could do it.

That felt either like partisan commenting or a form of “white-male phobia” that transpired in other parts of the book.
Trump was simply playing the game as much as Hillary did. As far as I remember Hillary started the game of moving on Trump’s side.

Sure, Trump might have played more games, and more ruthlessly, but it’s not like it was Trump “stalking Hillary” and Hillary was a poor victim.

Superficial Comments on Policies

Barack created bills that would create thousands of jobs for Americans.

LOL, yeah, sure, as if politicians could “create jobs”. They hire people with government funds, but that’s not to say that you “create jobs”. You might as easily waste taxpayers’ money (which is what most often happens).

Avoid Low-Fat products

Michelle Obama spearheaded a very important agenda on nutrition. However, when she said that she promoted low-fat diaries, that’s when I thought she might not really know much about nutrition at all.

Most modern nutrition is rehabilitating fat. And cutting out fat is especially bad when you’re skimming milk and artificially trying to remove it.
Als read Eat Fat to Get Thin and Own The Day, Own Your Life.

Feels Like Victim Mentality at Times (Complaining)

Michelle Obama says the media tried to portray her as angry and negative and it was almost becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy for her.

Yet, in my opinion, she did come across as 

It takes energy to be the only black person in the lecture hall. Or one of a few non-white people trying out for a play or joining an intramural team. It requires effort, an extra level of confidence to speak in those settings and own your presence in a room. 

She goes on to comment on the “looks” she got from students and some professors as if they wanted to say “I know why you’re here”, which planted seeds of doubt in her mind.


I tried not to be intimidated when classroom conversation was dominated by male students, which often was. 
Hearing them, I realized they weren’t any smarter than the rest of us
They were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them any different.


You gotta be twice as good to go half as far.

Cheap Feminism

Reminiscent of Lean In, Michelle Obama seems to think (and suggest) that women should stick together for the simple fact of being women.
She says:

I still wonder why so many females rejected an acceptionally qualified female candidate and instead choose a mysoginist as their president

Forced Agenda of Multiculturalism

Michelle Obama explains that Trump’s administration is “white and male” like she was so tired of seeing growing up.

The vibrant diversity of the two previous inauguration was gone, replaced by a dispiriting uniformity of, the kind of white male overwhelmeing… (bla bla bla)

Why should we assess an administration based on DIVERSITY?

Why not assess how good it does, and how competent it is?

Why should it be a value to FORCE multiculturalism?
Why should anyone “push” for more women or more color? As much as why should anyone “push” for more men if there are more women, or more whites if there are more blacks?

I don’t think there is any inherent advantage in “forcing” more of this gender or of this color.

Hugging and Celebrating Bin Laden’s Death

Michelle Obama talks at great length about mass shootings and how painful they were. 
She makes violence and gun control a central theme in her book.

And then… Then she hugged her husband when Bin Laden was killed. 
A man dies and a country celebrates. And their leaders compliment each other.

I somehow always found those scenes eerily pathetic. But I would have expected from the leadership.
Instead, it was worst. Michelle Obama tells the story of “jubilant people crowding the streets” as if it was one of the happiest moments of her life. 
How sad.

Also, “killing Bin Laden” was a top priority for their administration? Really? Killing ONE man is a top priority??

Slightly Too Much Nationalism

I used to be more nationalist, but as I grow and get wiser I more and more see it as something we all need to overcome.

Michelle Obama touched by the wounded vet who, in pain, tried to stand up while spitting on the floor because he wanted to “salute the wife of his commander in chief” is pathetic to me.
Not for the man, of course, I wish him the best and speedy recovery, and in a way I also admire him.

But the feeling of pride for a boss or a flag is small-minded.

Similarly, her focus on “leaving a mark” on the White House felt misplaced and… Somewhat small-minded in the greater scheme of things.
But still… I understand it.


  • Well written
  • Well narrated
  • Great insights into the life of a president (and first lady)
  • Great insights into some of the political games
  • Touching, on many occasions
  • Funny and entertaining, on many occasions
  • Some good, deep reflections


I found Becoming overly obsessed with skin colors, slightly too feminist, and a bit too much on the complaining side.

On the plus side, it’s entertaining, sometimes funny, almost always interesting, and, at times, also very touching. Especially the last chapter it’s almost a tear-jerker while also being upliftingly beautiful. 

Some passages increased my respect for Michelle Obama.
And even more so for Barack Obama.

I’m not Barack Obama’s biggest fan as he often engages in social climbing and to me, that’s one of the biggest sins of leaders (you can see examples here).
However, he is an overall high-quality man and he is the kind of man who makes a woman happy.

Overall, I respect both of them and I think they have had a positive impact and they were good for their country.

But I don’t agree with some of the mindsets and philosophies that soak Michelle Obama’s Becoming.

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