Author: Michelle Obama
APA Style Citation
Obama, M. (2018). Becoming. New York, NY: Penguin, Random House.
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Becoming describes Michelle Obama`s life from her early years living on the South Side of Chicago to her post First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS)experiences. Many of the situations presented in Becomingcan easily be integratedinto a psychology class in particular, in the social and cognitive units of the course.
Michelle was raisedin the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago just a few miles south of the Loop. Thiswas a neighborhood that was experiencing “white flight.” As middle-class black families moved into the neighborhood because of the reasonable home prices, the traditionally White, Irish Catholic neighborhood changed into what some described as a “black ghetto.” Included in the book are some pictures of Michelle`s 2nd-gradeclass which is fairly diverse and her 6th-gradeclass in which all but one of the students is black. As the neighborhood changed, so did the schools and the local schools began to have a reputation for being poor quality inner-city schools that were not educating their students properly. Good teachers were leaving, and talented teachers did not want to come to South Shore. Obama describes thefeeling of a failing school, she reports that people know it is happening but they often there is nothing they can do to stop it.
Michelle had an advocate in her mother, who went in to protest the lack of teaching in Michelle`s grade school classroom. She was able to arrange for Michelle to get tested and Michelle was ultimately placed into the talented and gifted program. This change allowed Michelle to have an enriching grade school experience. Michelle loved learning and as a result,was givenmore and more challenging assignments. For high school, Michelle tested into Morgan Park Academy which was a magnet school about an hour away from Michelle`s home but also one of the best schools in the city where she was challenged by demanding classes and surrounded by other ambitious students from all over the city. From there, Michelle was accepted to Princeton University to complete her undergraduate degree and then onto Harvard University Law school before landing a job at a successful law firm in Chicago.
Michelle experienced the impact of stereotyping both at home and in her education. One of her cousins once asked her “why she talked like a white person.” This comment resonated with Michelle and her feel like she was somehow an outsider even with some members of her own family. When she attended Princeton, she was one of the few black students on campus and spent much of her time at the black student center to feel like she had a support network with people whom she could identify with. Because she was often the only black person in class, she felt pressure to work harder and be better as she did not want people to feel that she was attending Princeton for any other reason other than her academic talent. Stereotype threat can be a strong force, but in this case,Michelle worked harder and focused all of her energy to overcome the belief some people had that perhaps she was not “Princeton material.” When things were difficult, Michelle demonstratedGRIT and a belief in herself and her abilities and was able to show her true abilities.
Michelle also found friends who had the same academic ambitions as herself, andthey helped to motivate her but also to keep her grounded. She was good friends with Jesse Jackson’s daughter. Michelle participated in her first political marches and saw the inner working of what occurred behind the scenes for a public political figure. She also saw the sacrifice and the challenges that a life of public service created for the family of the public figure.
Michelle met Barack Obama when she was assigned to supervise him while he completed a summer internship at the law firm she was working at. At first,she was skeptical as she described people`s excitement about this brilliant young intern, she expected him to be arrogant and entitled, what she found instead was that he was confident but kind and personable. By the end of the summer they were dating, and Barack quickly introduced Michelle to his passion as a community organizer. While Michelle accompanied him to many meetings, she understood the concerns of neighbors who were watching their communities being taken over by gangs and drug dealers, seeing businesses move out of the area, and home prices plummet. Michelle had seen the same thing in her ownneighborhood and felt compelled to do something to help.
Eventually, she left her law firm to take a job at the City of Chicago working for Valerie Jarrett, they became fast friends, andMichelle became acquainted with the many challenges facing people in different neighborhoods in the city. She went on to create a mentor program and then to work as a community organizer for the University of Chicago hospital. By this time Barack had become a state senator, andMichelle was surprised by the expectation from women in D.C. that she drop everything and move to support her husband. She faced judgmentfrom the other Senators’ wives who thought she should be lunchingwith them in Washington while their husbands were legislating. Michelle was juggling a successful career, two young children and a husband that was often away for work. She credits the many others around her including friends, family and babysitters who helped to assist her through this demanding time in order for her to remain committed to the passions of her work.
When Barack decided to run for president, Michelle tried to keep her position at the hospital, buteventually,it became too challenging, she did, however, insist on a schedule that would get her home in time to put her children to bed each night. She also advocated for her ownstaff as her travel became more constant and hectic. People were quick to judge her involvement in the campaign, her care (or lack thereof) of her children, her clothing choices and her informal and accessible style of speaking. She believed that if she told her story honestly and worked hard that her best was all she could give. She was right andher husband, with her help, was elected the 44thpresident of the U.S.
During the almost instant transition into public life, Michelle kept her focus on creating a normal life for her children and creating a platform as the firstlady that would focus on a healthy lifestyle. Michelle had seen in her own Chicago community the lack of fresh food and had herself experienced a dependenceon processed food and takeout for her and the girls asshe tried to navigate each busy day. Michelle organized the planting of a community garden on the lawn of the White House and advocated for causes she believed in. She met with state and national leaders but limited her time for formal events to be certain that Malia and Sasha felt supported in their new environment. She also brought her mother with her to the White House so that when she was traveling, her girls would have their grandmother to support and make the White House feel more like a home.
Becoming begins and ends with Michelle in her post-WhiteHouse home, making herself a cheesy sandwich. She sits on her back steps relishing the strange quietness of being home alone for the first time in years (despite the secret service located feet away in the garage). She expresses gratefulness for the time she spent doing the many things she loved and wonders what will be next.
Other Related Resources
NPR: Michelle Obama tells the story of “Becoming” herself
BBC radio: Eight amazing things we learned from Michelle Obama
Playhouse Square: Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama
BOOKRIOT: The Most Powerful Quotes from Becoming
Time Magazine review of Becoming
Psychological Figures and Concepts