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No, I really didn’t want to read the book…

Because I’ve been a self-confessed fan of Michelle Obama for years.
I saw her speeches in the Clinton versus
Trump, enthusiastically followed and shared on YouTube.
I admire your fashionable chutzpah and a future US President
I could have easily imagined Michelle Obama.


I followed the massive campaign on all channels for the publication of her book with great skepticism. No bookstore window or online reference could seduce me. I didn’t want to be disillusioned at all. My fear was that I would be presented with an autobiography that paints an unquestionably impressive resume and life as First Lady of the United States in rosy, glorifying hues.


On a cold, wet morning on a small holiday island in the Netherlands, when nothing seemed more desirable than reading a good book by the crackling fireplace and the local bookshop actually had a copy in the original language in stock, I jumped in to give at least the first few pages a chance give. Back in everyday life, I looked forward to the late evening every day so that I could finally pick up the book again.

Michelle Obama describes growing up in a Chicago neighborhood where everyone who can afford it is gradually moving away and fewer and fewer white children are shown in the annual class portraits. She describes the love and iron discipline of her parents with clear and unsparing words. The family arrives well in advance of each event so that the sick father, whose every step causes more and more pain, can find a parking space as close as possible to the entrance to an event.

Michelle Obama watches the father drag himself out of the house in excruciating pain to drive to work at a water company where he is responsible for maintaining the water heaters, and she is aware that any offer of help from him will be brusque and would have been shamefully rejected. The father never misses a single day at work until his early death.

The mother sews the children’s clothes, sticks to the district, enforces better learning conditions in Michelle’s school and is later difficult to impress in the White House. It is important to parents that their children’s education is important and that they try to make them feel as little as possible that money is very tight.

They convey to Michelle and her brother that there is no limit to their dreams and encourage them to apply to Princeton and Harvard, while at the same time giving them great freedom, trusting in the teaching of their values ​​through their upbringing.

So far it sounds like the American Dream. However, Michelle Obama describes her fears, her self-doubt, her mistakes and shortcomings so relentlessly that the autobiography never seems sweet or glorified. She delivers a relentless analysis of her personality, which, due to her experience as a child and adolescent, is so very different from that of her later husband, Barack Obama.

While he arrives for the first meeting at the law firm in Chicago, beaming but too late and feeling figuratively at ease on the wide ocean and loving every new challenge, Michelle Obama instinctively always seeks the boat, the protective space that offers a minimum of promises risks.


The title “Becoming” (or in the German translation, not entirely successful, “My Story”) is an apt title. The beaming Michelle Obama on the cover, on the other hand, contradicts her portrayal of politics as one can only experience it as an insider. The legislative drafts and initiatives, which cost everything in terms of energy, which her husband launched during his two terms of office as president, were repealed with a swipe of his hand by the successor.

Rarely is it about the cause – almost always just about power. For example, after every machine gun massacre in American schools or kindergartens that pierces Barack Obama to the core, there are only the same regretful words from the majority of politicians, but no changes to the laws governing gun purchase and ownership in the United States regulate.

These portrayals of American politics and the responsibilities that every president bears are so powerful that one doubts their radiance on the book cover. The successor Trump is only outlined in very few places in the book. That is sufficient, that sits and gives even less hope.

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Whether it’s describing her time at Harvard Law University, the law firm, the White House, or the state visit to Buckingham Palace.

The self-critical, reflective tone makes the book worth reading and in many places it is easy to identify with her thoughts and feelings.

For everyone who did not grow up as an Afro-American in the USA, her descriptions create an increased sensitivity to what it means to always have to be particularly good and yet in many cases, even in the most distinguished positions, the United States of America don’t really have to offer, as President and as First Lady, to be accepted.

After reading the last page I immediately bought more copies to give away. I have to say: It’s worth every penny and minute you spend on it.

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