becoming michelle obama summary essay

Michelle Obama

Ask litcharts ai: the answer to your questions.

Michelle Obama (born Michelle Robinson) grows up on the South Side of Chicago, in a neighborhood slowly being deserted by white and wealthy families. Michelle’s family (which includes her mother , her father , and her older brother Craig ) is a very tight-knit, middle-class family living together in a small apartment upstairs from her great-aunt Robbie and her great-uncle Terry . Despite the fact that Michelle’s family is not very affluent, she has a happy childhood—largely due to the sacrifices and investment of her family and the adults around her. She learns piano from Robbie, her mother teaches her to read early, and she works hard to get a good education.

Michelle’s childhood is not without its hiccups and challenges, however. When she attends a piano recital, she realizes that she has only ever played on one with broken keys. Her father has multiple sclerosis and his body is slowly deteriorating, despite the fact that he insists he feels fine. And once, when Michelle and her family visit some family friends in a predominantly white neighborhood, they return to their car and find that someone has keyed a deep gash into it.

Still, Michelle doesn’t let these challenges get her down. She works hard in school, and despite a guidance counselor’s doubts, she gets into Princeton (following her brother). At the Third World Center at Princeton (a student center for minority students), she finds friends and mentors that make her feel more at home in a place she describes as “extremely white and very male.” One such friend is Suzanne Alele , who is very different from Michelle in that she prioritizes fun over more pragmatic choices.

Michelle graduates magma cum laude with a degree in sociology, but she doesn’t stop to truly consider what makes her passionate. Instead, she dives right into Harvard Law School, knowing that it will give her a degree of validation and certainty about what her future might look like. After law school, she moves back to Chicago to join a firm called Sidley & Austin. A year into working at Sidley, Michelle agrees to mentor an incoming summer associate. She is assigned Barack Obama , an African American man who is three years older than she is and has already gained a reputation as an exceptional law student (after finishing only his first year at Harvard). She and Barack quickly strike up a friendship, and she notes his intense optimism, his diligence, and also his humility. She is also intrigued by the fact that he seems more concerned with a broader “potential for mobility” than his own wealth. They begin to date just before Barack returns to Harvard.

Over the next two years, as Barack finishes up law school, Michelle starts to feel dissatisfied in her job, knowing she’s not passionate about it. Michelle also experiences two losses: the loss of her friend Suzanne to cancer, and the loss of her father. Her father dies of a heart attack just after finally agreeing to make a doctor’s appointment. Michelle is heartbroken; these losses prompt her to understand that life is precious and she cannot waste any more time in a job that she doesn’t enjoy.

Michelle leaves Sidley & Austin to begin what will become a series of jobs. First, she takes a job at city hall. Though she is skeptical of politics, she is excited by the opportunity to actually improve people’s lives. Meanwhile, Barack graduates from law school and moves back to Chicago. On the day he takes the bar exam, he proposes to Michelle, and she says yes. Michelle and Barack marry in the summer of 1992, then take a honeymoon in Northern California. When they return, Bill Clinton wins the presidency and Carol Mosely Braun (the first African American woman to hold a U.S. Senate seat) wins her race as well. Barack has missed a deadline to turn in a book manuscript, and so he decides to hole up in a cabin in Indonesia for six months to work on it while Michelle remains in Chicago.

Michelle and Barack go through a series of changes: she takes a job at a company called Public Allies, which recruits young people and places them in non-for-profit companies in the hopes that they will stay in that line of work. Barack wins a seat in the Illinois Senate; his mother Ann passes away. Michelle then moves on to a job at the University of Chicago, as an associate dean focusing on community relations. This job’s health benefits are particularly important to Michelle, as she and Barack are trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant. After months of failed attempts and a miscarriage, Michelle and Barack decide to try in vitro fertilization, and their daughter Malia is born via this method in 1998. Michelle has a difficult time adjusting to the schedule of being a mom and also having a part-time job. Barack, too, experiences some of the sacrifices of parenting: when they are on vacation in Hawaii, Malia falls ill and Barack is forced to miss a crime bill vote because they cannot fly home while she is sick. He loses a Congressional race as a result of missing the vote.

In 2001, Barack and Michelle have another girl, Sasha . Michelle debates whether to go back to work, but she interviews for a job with the University of Chicago Medical Center (again working on community outreach) and brings Sasha along, making her need for a competitive salary as well as a flexible schedule clear. She is hired. Still, even with the ability to afford childcare, Michelle grows frustrated with Barack’s absence—he is away every Monday through Thursday. The two go to couple’s counseling together and identify ways to make their schedules more compatible.

Michelle is happy at her new job, finding ways to improve how the hospital interacts with the local community and how community members seek treatment and get health care. Barack, meanwhile, decides to run for the U.S. Senate. He gets a few lucky breaks along the way: both the Democratic frontrunner and the Republican nominee are embroiled in scandals, and Barack is also selected by presidential nominee John Kerry as the keynote speaker for the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He gives a rousing seventeen-minute speech demonstrating how he is the embodiment of the American dream, calling for hope, progress, and unity among the American people. He becomes an instant sensation and wins his Senate race with 70 percent of the vote.

After two years in the Senate, Barack thinks about running for President. Michelle, who can already see her own identity slipping away in support of Barack’s, is hesitant, but she agrees, knowing that he could help millions of people. Along the campaign trail, Michelle and Barack face extra scrutiny because of their race. People often make racist comments about Barack and Michelle, and Michelle also faces a great deal of sexism when people speak about her “emasculating” Barack by being such a strong woman.

As Barack and Michelle campaign heavily in Iowa, Malia’s pediatrician tells Michelle that Malia’s body mass index is creeping up. Michelle hires a young man named Sam Kass to cook healthy meals for the family, and Michelle starts to become passionate about children’s health and nutrition. She and Sam discuss the possibility of planting a garden at the White House and starting a children’s health initiative if Barack wins.

After months of hard campaigning, Barack wins the Democratic nomination (beating Hillary Clinton ), and ultimately wins the presidency against Republican John McCain . This sets off a whirlwind of changes in the Obamas’ lives. They move to Washington and into the White House; they all receive dedicated Secret Service agents and a heavy security detail; they experience the luxury of a full-time staff catering to their needs.

Barack and Michelle waste no time: Barack is focused on rescuing a failing economy, while Michelle begins a series of initiatives in the White House. The first is planting a garden alongside Sam Kass, which helps spark her children’s health initiative, called Let’s Move! She gets large chain companies to promise to cut the salt, fat, and sugar in the meals they market to children, works with schools to provide healthier lunches, and gets networks like Disney and NBC to run PSAs during kids’ programs about the importance of physical activity.

Michelle knows that all of her decisions will face some kind of backlash: from women who believe she is giving up her education and career to become a domestic housewife; to those who believe she is too involved in policy; to those who simply focus on her fashion. Michelle knows, too, that as the first black First Lady, she is not perceived to have the “presumed grace” of other First Ladies.

Over the course of Barack’s two terms as President, both Michelle and Barack accomplish a lot. Barack is able to pass the Affordable Care Act, his signature domestic achievement. He starts to pull America out of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and American forces are able to kill Osama bin Laden. Barack rescues the economy. Michelle accomplishes a lot of her goals with Let’s Move! and also works on other initiatives like Joining Forces (which focuses on supporting military families), Reach Higher (which helps kids get to and stay in college) and Let Girls Learn (which supports girls’ education worldwide).

Still, there are many instances in which Barack and Michelle aren’t able to achieve all of their goals, and they feel the weight and responsibility of caring for a grieving nation. When a gunman kills twenty first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut, Barack knows there is no solace to be had, but resolves to fight for common sense gun control laws. Yet despite more and more instances of gun violence and school shootings, Congress does not budge.

As Barack’s presidency draws to a close, the next election kicks up. Michelle helps campaign for Hillary Clinton, particularly because she is disgusted by the racist and misogynistic comments that Donald Trump , the Republican nominee, makes. When Donald Trump eventually wins, Michelle is disheartened, worrying that so much of the progress that has been made in the last eight years might be undone. Still, as her family transitions out of the White House, she retains her optimism. No one person, she says, can reverse all progress.

Michelle concludes by affirming that she is “an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey.” She reflects on all of the ways that she and the country have changed over her lifetime. Neither she nor the country is perfect, but continuing to grow, and owning one’s own unique story, is what “becoming” ultimately means to her.

The logo.

Story of a Woman: “Becoming” by Michelle Obama Report (Assessment)

  • To find inspiration for your paper and overcome writer’s block
  • As a source of information (ensure proper referencing)
  • As a template for you assignment

The book Becoming is a memoir written by Michelle Obama in 2018. As a former US First Lady, the author decided to share her personal experience and talk about her roots and the time in the White House. This book is not only a political source of information with several complex terms and ideas, but a story of a woman and a mother in her attempts to find out the voice.

When people are asked about Obama’s policies and impact on American history, people usually choose one of the two sides: like or hate. In other words, it is hard to stay indifferent to the decisions and contributions made by the former President and his wife. Michelle Obama does not overestimate her role in society or compare her contributions with other people. Her goal is to introduce the story of her growth and the tasks she had or wanted to complete. In the “Becoming Me” chapter, Obama focuses on her personal qualities, intentions, and life before meeting Barack Obama, saying about “the sound of people trying” and “the soundtrack to our life” (4). The second chapter, “Becoming Us”, covers the events before the elections in 2008. “Becoming More” is the final chapter about the life of a presidential family and the obligation to meet social expectations and personal demands. Racial and gender issues are properly described in the book.

Becoming may become a source of inspiration and motivation for many young ladies of different races. This story helps to realize that even an ordinary girl who lives in a block, has friends, and respects parents can become a good leader and an example to be followed. This book is a political and personal story with several social, psychological, and economic issues being discovered in a simple and clear language.

Obama, Michelle. Becoming. Penguin Random House, 2018.

  • Michelle Obama’s Remarks on American Dream
  • Michelle Carter's Case: Social Learning Theory
  • Michelle Obama American Dream Speech Analysis –
  • “Library Ethics” by Jean L. Preer
  • A Fable and Its Moral Teaching
  • “Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway: Analysis of Literature Tools
  • "Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne Review: Characterization of O'Connor and Hawthorne
  • "American Encounters" by Angela L. Miller, Janet C. Berlo, and Others
  • Chicago (A-D)
  • Chicago (N-B)

IvyPanda. (2022, January 15). Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama.

"Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama." IvyPanda , 15 Jan. 2022,

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama'. 15 January.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama." January 15, 2022.

1. IvyPanda . "Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama." January 15, 2022.


IvyPanda . "Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama." January 15, 2022.

Guide cover image

91 pages • 3 hours read

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Preface-Part 1, Chapter 2

Part 1, Chapters 3-5

Part 1, Chapters 6-8

Part 2, Chapters 9-11

Part 2, Chapters 12-14

Part 2, Chapters 15-17

Part 2, Chapter 18-Part 3, Chapter 20

Part 3, Chapters 21-23

Part 3, Chapter 24-Epilogue

Key Figures

Symbols & Motifs

Important Quotes

Essay Topics

Discussion Questions

Summary and Study Guide

Becoming is a memoir by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States from 2008-2016, originally published in 2018. In addition to describing her time in the White House, Obama details her upbringing, her education, her work in community outreach, and her relationship with former president Barack Obama , all of which contribute to the process of becoming the woman she is today. Becoming was the bestselling book of the year in 2018 and received a Grammy for the Best Spoken Word Album; in 2020, Netflix made a documentary centering around Obama’s book tour. This guide is based on the Random House LLC 2018 edition.

Plot Summary

Get access to this full Study Guide and much more!

  • 7,800+ In-Depth Study Guides
  • 4,800+ Quick-Read Plot Summaries
  • Downloadable PDFs

Michelle Robinson Obama details her childhood growing up in the South Side of Chicago with her parents, Fraser Robinson III and Marian Shields Robinson , and her older brother, Craig Robinson . A bright, determined student, Michelle is aided by relatives and teachers who support her intelligence and encourage her to aim higher than her working-class background and rapidly changing neighborhood.

Michelle attends Princeton University, then later Harvard Law School, where she notices a decided lack of diversity among her peers. Determined to make a success of herself, Michelle doesn’t take the time to pursue other interests; she stays focused on the path toward financial security and becoming a lawyer. After Michelle gets her dream job at a law firm in Chicago, she is surprised to realize how little the work means to her. However, it isn’t until intern Barack Obama arrives and introduces Michelle to his passion for community outreach that Michelle realizes where her true talents lie. After Barack and Michelle marry, Michelle takes a big leap—and a big pay cut—to pursue community outreach work. The Obamas have two daughters, Malia and Sasha, before Barack once again shakes up the family’s stability by beginning a career in politics.

The SuperSummary difference

  • 8x more resources than SparkNotes and CliffsNotes combined
  • Study Guides you won ' t find anywhere else
  • 175 + new titles every month

When Barack runs for President of the United States in 2008, Michelle supports him but remains skeptical that a black man will be elected. However, on the campaign trail with Barack, Michelle sees firsthand the hope her husband’s message inspires. When Barack successfully becomes president, Michelle realizes that she will have to figure out how to navigate her role as First Lady under the harsh scrutiny of the public eye, all while dealing with racism and bigotry, trying to preserve her daughters’ childhoods, and attempting to promote real and lasting change.

After some trial and error, Michelle learns to direct the gaze of the public to the issues that matter most to her: military veterans and their families, childhood health and the Let’s Move! initiative, the White House Garden , education for young girls, and youth programs designed to encourage underprivileged students. Michelle fights to preserve normalcy for her daughters during their time in the White House while also striving to support a husband who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.

When Donald Trump is elected as the 45th President of the United States, Michelle is initially devastated. However, rather than wallowing in self-pity or defeat, Michelle continues to promote the message of hope, reminding her readers that change takes time and that America is still in the process of reaching its full potential. 

blurred text

Don't Miss Out!

Access Study Guide Now

Related Titles

By Michelle Obama

Guide cover image

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times

Michelle Obama

Featured Collections

Books on U.S. History

View Collection

Goodreads Reading Challenge

Oprah's Book Club Picks

Politics & Government

Popular Book Club Picks

Women's Studies


Becoming Summary, Themes and Review

Becoming” is a memoir written by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. It was published in November 2018. 

The book provides an intimate look into Obama’s life, from her childhood in Chicago to her years as a lawyer, mother, and ultimately, as the First Lady during Barack Obama’s presidency. 

Michelle Obama, born Michelle Robinson, grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in a neighborhood undergoing demographic shifts as white and affluent families gradually moved away. 

Despite residing in a modest apartment above her great-aunt and great-uncle alongside her parents and older brother Craig, Michelle’s upbringing was enriched by her close-knit family and supportive adults. Her mother fostered her early literacy skills, while her great-aunt Robbie imparted piano lessons, nurturing Michelle’s talents and fostering a love for learning.

Nevertheless, Michelle encountered obstacles along the way. Attending a piano recital revealed the limitations of her instrument, a stark contrast to the pristine ones she had never played. 

Her father’s battle with multiple sclerosis, concealed by his stoic demeanor, underscored the fragility of life. 

Additionally, a distressing incident of vandalism following a visit to a predominantly white neighborhood highlighted the racial tensions prevalent in her surroundings.

Undeterred by these challenges, Michelle excelled academically, earning admission to Princeton University, following in her brother’s footsteps. 

At Princeton’s Third World Center, she found solace among fellow minority students, forming friendships and mentorships crucial for navigating an environment she described as predominantly white and male. 

Despite her academic achievements, Michelle pursued a degree in sociology without deeply considering her passions, driven instead by the pursuit of validation and certainty offered by Harvard Law School.

Her professional journey led her to Sidley & Austin, where she crossed paths with Barack Obama, a promising law student whom she mentored and later developed a friendship with. 

Their relationship blossomed despite geographical distances and demanding schedules, eventually culminating in marriage. 

Michelle’s career trajectory shifted as she sought fulfillment beyond the confines of corporate law, transitioning to roles focused on community engagement and advocacy.

Parenthood brought new challenges, compounded by the demands of career and public service. 

Despite setbacks, including miscarriage and struggles with work-life balance, Michelle remained resolute in her commitment to effecting positive change. 

Her tenure at the University of Chicago Medical Center, coupled with Barack’s political ascent, provided platforms for advancing causes close to her heart, particularly children’s health and education .

The historic election of Barack Obama as the first African American President marked a new chapter in the Obamas’ lives, accompanied by unprecedented scrutiny and expectations. 

Michelle embraced her role as First Lady with grace and determination, championing initiatives such as Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, Reach Higher, and Let Girls Learn. Despite facing criticism and adversity, she remained steadfast in her resolve to make a difference.

The Obama administration’s accomplishments, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act and efforts to address economic challenges and global conflicts, were tempered by the persistent obstacles of partisan gridlock and societal divisions. 

Michelle’s unwavering commitment to service and advocacy continued beyond the White House, as she remained actively involved in promoting social causes and supporting marginalized communities.

As the nation grappled with the transition to a new administration, Michelle’s optimism endured, tempered by a sober recognition of the work yet to be done. 

Reflecting on her journey, she emphasized the importance of embracing one’s unique narrative and striving for growth, both individually and collectively. 

Michelle Obama’s legacy serves as a testament to the transformative power of perseverance, empathy, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Becoming Summary, Themes and Review

Social Mobility and Equity

Michelle Obama’s upbringing in a neighborhood undergoing demographic shifts reflects larger societal issues of social mobility and equity. Despite economic challenges and racial discrimination, Michelle’s family instilled in her the values of hard work and education, enabling her to transcend her circumstances and pursue opportunities like attending Princeton and Harvard Law School. 

Her journey highlights the importance of addressing systemic barriers to upward mobility and fostering environments where all individuals have equal access to education and opportunity.

Identity and Intersectionality

Michelle’s experiences navigating predominantly white spaces at Princeton and Harvard Law School underscore the complexities of identity and intersectionality. 

As an African American woman from a working-class background, Michelle grappled with issues of race, gender, and class, finding solace and support within communities like the Third World Center at Princeton. 

Her journey reflects broader conversations about identity formation, representation, and the importance of inclusive spaces that validate diverse experiences.

Personal Agency and Purpose

Michelle’s trajectory from corporate law to public service reflects broader themes of personal agency and purpose. Despite initially pursuing paths that offered societal validation and stability, such as attending Harvard Law School and working at Sidley & Austin, Michelle ultimately prioritized her passion for community engagement and social impact. 

Her journey highlights the significance of aligning personal values with professional pursuits and finding fulfillment through purpose-driven work.

Legacy and Leadership

Michelle Obama’s tenure as First Lady and her advocacy for initiatives like Let’s Move!, Joining Forces, and Let Girls Learn exemplify the power of leadership and legacy in effecting positive change. 

Through strategic initiatives and public engagement, Michelle leveraged her platform to address pressing social issues like childhood obesity, support for military families, and girls’ education worldwide. 

Her legacy underscores the transformative potential of leadership in shaping public discourse, inspiring collective action, and leaving a lasting impact on society.

Now, I’m not one to get sentimental, but let me tell you, Michelle’s story hit me harder than a ton of bricks. 

From her humble beginnings to her epic journey through the corridors of power, this woman’s got tales to make you laugh, cry, and maybe even snort your coffee out your nose.

This scene particularly hit me hard. 

It’s Malia’s 10th birthday, smack dab in the middle of a crazy campaign trail. The Obamas are running on fumes, barely keeping their eyes open, and what do they do? 

They throw together a last-minute party that’s more chaotic than a circus on wheels. 

But guess what? 

Malia thinks it’s the best birthday ever! 

Cue the waterworks, folks, because if that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, I don’t know what will.

And let’s talk about relatability—Michelle’s got it in spades. 

She’s like your best friend, your confidante, your partner in crime. 

Whether you’re a man, woman, or intergalactic alien, you’ll find something to connect with in her story. 

Plus, who knew our birthdays could align with the First Family’s? 

It’s like cosmic destiny, folks!

But wait, there’s more! 

“Becoming” isn’t just a memoir; it’s a roadmap to kicking butt and taking names (including a Former President). 

It’s about finding mentors, opening doors, and making the world a better place, one fabulous pantsuit at a time. 

So before you think twice, let me tell you that you have to read this memoir. 

Trust me, you won’t regret it!

Sharing is Caring!

books that slay logo

A team of Editors at Books That Slay.

Passionate | Curious | Permanent Bibliophiles

Becoming Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Becoming  will use Michelle Obama’s life story to motivate you to move forward with your dreams regardless of your circumstances, criticism, or what people think.

Favorite quote from the author:

Becoming Summary

Audio Summary

Listen to the audio of this summary with a free account*:

Michelle Obama hasn’t always been as successful and well-known as she is today. Long before she was a lawyer, working mom, and First Lady, she was Michelle Robinson. Growing up in the Chicago south side, her loves included learning, jazz music, and Stevie Wonder long before she met Barack. 

In a quickly decaying neighborhood and school situation, Michelle’s mother helped her excel. Her hard work would later lead to her studying at prestigious universities and developing a desire to help people. 

These are just some of the life lessons you’ll learn from Michelle Obama in her book Becoming . This record-shattering memoir ( nearly 20 million copies sold ) will pull back the curtain on the family’s time in the White House. It will also remind you how authenticity, resilience, and hard work lead to success — even if it’s not the kind of success you might have planned for.

Here are the 3 most helpful lessons I’ve learned from the life of Michelle Obama:

  • Regardless of the changes in your world, you can strive to be your best and learn.
  • Ignore people who tell you what they think you can’t be, pushing yourself to excel will lead you to people who believe in your potential.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things, even if you live in a place as traditional as the White House.

Ready for some inspiration? Let’s go!

If you want to save this summary for later, download the free PDF and read it whenever you want.

Lesson 1: Be proactive about learning and getting a good education, regardless of how good or bad things are around you.

The South Side of Chicago saw a huge demographic change between 1950 and 1980. In the ’50s, it’s residents were 96% white. Just 30 years later, it was 96% black. Michelle Obama began life right in the middle of this, and at her school, there was a good mix of different people.

As she grew, an increasing number of her wealthier neighbors moved to the suburbs and took their money with them. Because of this the schools and businesses in the area began declining. It wasn’t long before nefarious real estate agents dubbed the area a ghetto . 

Thankfully, Michelle had a great mother who’s involvement in helping the community also helped her education . 

In second grade Michelle told her mom how awful school was. She explained that the teacher couldn’t control the chaos of the class, and her mom listened . It wasn’t long before Michelle tested into a third-grade class of high-performing kids. Looking back, this was a crucial step to her success in school.

Her drive helped her get into an equal opportunity school with great teachers and other top students like Michelle. She continued to work hard amid doubts that she could do it, especially when comparing herself to the other high-achieving kids. By concentrating on the work she learned quickly and excelled.

Lesson 2: Don’t let people’s opinions of you discourage you, try for greatness, and you will eventually find the people who believe in you.

Even though she was in the National Honors Society, class treasurer, and heading toward being in the top 10% of her class, Michelle still had opposition. 

She once had a meeting with a college counselor who said: “I’m not sure you’re Princeton material.” Michelle had hopes to go there because of an older brother that was already there. But this advisor, who should have been a professional, only told her to lower her sights. 

But she didn’t let this get her down , applied anyway, and got in. Sometimes you need to ignore the people who should be giving you the best advice to just go with your gut and shoot for the moon! And, as young Michelle quickly learned, doing so can lead you to people who truly believe in your ability to reach any dreams you have.

While Princeton was mostly white, Michelle got involved with an organization by the name of Third World Center (TWC). This group gave support to students of color. It was here that she met Czerny Brasuell, a mentor who would be a positive influence on Michelle throughout college. 

Brasuell was a working mom, which is something Michelle hoped to be someday. She also gave good reading suggestions, answered questions, and helped Michelle begin an afterschool program. Czerny was the perfect example and friend to Michelle throughout college, helping set the standard for her successful life.

Lesson 3: Don’t fear using your strengths and ideas to try to improve the world, no matter how prestigious a position you may be in.

Over the next few years, Michelle would go on to study at Harvard. After that, she began working for a law firm in Chicago. It was there that she met Barack Obama. Although she had some initial doubts about him, she quickly caught on and they were eventually married. 

Fast-forward a few years and the Obama’s and their two daughters are about to move into the White House as the First Family. They felt like they were in a whole new world with secret security and new protocols for even the simplest of things in life. 

Their typical date night of dinner and a show, for example, was no more due to all of the security restrictions in place. It was also hard for Michelle to get involved as the first lady acting like an elected official is frowned upon. But she did find ways to be herself amid this strange new universe she and her family were in. 

Her commitment to raising her daughters, for example, was one thing that Michelle wouldn’t let go of. She helped them see that the White House was their home and they could play and grab food from the pantry as they pleased.

Michelle also started a garden and worked on initiatives to help improve school lunches across the nation. The drive that helped her succeed in school and help other people shone through. She worked to improve the world in whatever way she could, even though the position her family was in made some aspects of life a little more challenging.

Becoming Review

No matter your political views, the life experiences Michelle Obama shares in Becoming are inspiring. Throughout the book, I noticed a theme of the power of hard work, which I think is a reminder we can all benefit from in a world full of seemingly magical success stories. If you’re looking for continued motivation to push forward and become a   better person , this book is for you.

Who would I recommend the Becoming summary to?

The 37-year-old mom who works, the 23-year-old who wants to go to law school but is afraid it might be too hard and just needs some inspiration, and anyone with a desire to change the world for the better.

Last Updated on April 24, 2023

becoming michelle obama summary essay

Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.

*Four Minute Books participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising commissions by linking to Amazon. We also participate in other affiliate programs, such as Blinkist, MindValley, Audible, Audiobooks, Reading.FM, and others. Our referral links allow us to earn commissions (at no extra cost to you) and keep the site running. Thank you for your support.

Need some inspiration? 👀 Here are... The 365 Most Famous Quotes of All Time »

Share on mastodon.

Becoming Summary

Becoming Summary and Review | Book by Michelle Obama

Life gets busy. Has Becoming been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now.

We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order it here or get the audiobook for free on Amazon to learn the juicy details.

Here are the key insights and the book review of Becoming:

About Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is an American lawyer and author. Raised in Chicago, Michelle is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. After working for multiple law firms and non-profits, Michelle’s most influential role was as the US’s First Lady from 2009 to 2017. During her time in the White House, she served as an advocate for poverty awareness, education, nutrition, physical activity, and healthy eating.


Becoming is the memoir of Michelle Obama, former US First Lady. The book was published in 2018. It delves deep into her upbringing and its impact on her future life. The book explains how Michelle found her voice. Becoming gives its readers an insight into The White House and what it was like running a highly impactful public health campaign while being a mother. Covering a diversity of Michelle Obama’s experiences, Michelle described authoring this book as a “deeply personal experience.”

A highly influential book, Becoming sold more copies than any other book in the US in 2018. More remarkably, Becoming was only released 15 days before the end of 2018. It sold more books in that short space of time than any other 2018 book had in the entirety of that year. The book is broken down into 24 chapters but is ultimately separated into three sections. The first section is titled Becoming Me and focuses on Michelle’s early life. Becoming Us delves into her education, meeting Barack Obama, and the beginning of Barack’s political career. Finally, Becoming More concludes with thoughts on Barack’s presidency, Michelle’s Let’s Move campaign, and her role as “head mom in chief.” So, this book summary will also be broken down into these three sections. Each section will be filled with the most impactful experiences, thoughts, and conclusions formed by Michelle Obama. 

StoryShot #1: Michelle’s Early Years in Chicago

Michelle Robinson was born in 1968 in Chicago’s South Side. She was brought up in a brick bungalow belonging to her mother’s aunt. Michelle recalls the national riots in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She barely understood what was going on in her neighborhood at the time. She was so young. 

Her family was hugely important to Michelle Obama when she was growing up in Chicago. Her mother taught her how to read from a very young age. She would accompany Michelle to the public library while her father worked as a city laborer. Her father made sure that she and her brother were exposed to art and jazz. This exposure to music encouraged Michelle to learn the piano at the age of four. 

Music ran in the family for Michelle, so she had always found it easy to play the piano. Her great aunt, Robbie, taught her. This period was one of the earliest examples of Michelle’s strong-minded nature. Her and Robbie often clashed during lessons. She even thought about becoming a musician one day, but eventually decided to pursue lawyerly opportunities. In the book, Michelle describes a memory of how accustomed she had grown to her great aunt’s piano. She had perfectly practiced a song she was set to perform at Roosevelt University. But her great aunt’s piano’s unique aspect is its middle C having a chip in it. When on stage, a young Michelle froze as she could not find middle C on this new piano. Her great aunt then came on stage and pointed it out. Michelle then performed her song as she had initially hoped. This is just one snapshot of how close Michelle was with her family.

StoryShot #2: Chicago’s Racial Transition

One of the remarkable features of Michelle’s upbringing is her area was 96% white in 1950 and then 96% black by 1981. She grew up in the middle of this transition. So, she was surrounded by a mixture of black and white families. But more and more families decided to move away to the suburbs. This movement meant less funding, and the area was deemed a “ghetto.” Michelle and her family still regarded this area as their home. 

StoryShot #3: Michelle’s Schooling

Michelle’s mother was a highly influential woman in the local community. She was also highly influential in Michelle’s education as she grew up. In the second grade, Michelle told her mother that she hated her class as it was full of chaotic children. The teachers could not get the class under control, and Michelle was missing opportunities to learn. Michelle’s mother also made sure the school tested her abilities. Michelle was moved up to a class with other high-performing children who wanted to learn. This decision is potentially the most crucial in how her life turned out. She had been put on the right track to excel in school.

Her top performances in school led her to attend Whitney M. Young High School in Chicago. A Magnet School, the teachers were progressive, and her fellow students were all high performing children. Michelle showed a significant commitment to attend this school. It took her two buses and 90 minutes to get to school each day. Some of her fellow students lived in high-rise apartments right by the school and would wear designer purses. Michelle explains in the book how everything appeared so effortless to them. Despite doubting whether she fitted in, she put her head down and received excellent grades. 

StoryShot #4: Princeton University and Finding a Great Mentor

During her time at school, Michelle excelled academically but also involved herself in the school’s societies. She was the elected class treasurer. Michelle was also in the National Honor Society, and she was on track to finish in the top 10% of her class. Despite this, her college counselor told her that she might not be “Princeton material.” Beforehand, she had been excited by the prospect of Princeton. Her brother, Craig, had attended Princeton, and she thought she might join him there. This counselor could have crushed her confidence. Instead, they irritated her and made her want to apply for Princeton even more. She did, and she got in.

Upon arriving at Princeton, Michelle recalls the experience of being one of the few non-white people. This was uncomfortable. For example, less than 9% of students in her freshman class were black. Despite this, she enjoyed her time at Princeton. She found a welcoming community and a fantastic mentor.

While at Princeton, Michelle’s mentor was one of the Third World Centre leaders. This center has since been renamed the Carl A. Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding. Her name was Czerny Brasuell, an energetic New Yorker who was a strong black woman and a working mom. During her time at Princeton, Michelle became both Czerny’s assistant and her protégé. Czerny even encouraged Michelle to start running an after school program for the children of black faculty and staff members. Her future was influenced by Czerny, who inspired her to become a working mom in the future. 

After majoring in sociology, Michelle started to consider Harvard Law School. 

StoryShot #5: Getting Into Harvard Law School and Meeting Barack Obama

Michelle did decide to pursue Harvard Law School and subsequently took her LSAT test. She admits she never stopped and thought about what she would like to be doing. Michelle went straight from Princeton to Harvard Law School. She enjoyed her time at Harvard Law School, but it is the period after this that shaped her life. 

After graduating from Harvard in 1988, Michelle moved back to Chicago to work for a law firm called Sidley & Austin. Here she met a young law student named Barack Obama. He immediately exuded confidence and self-reliance. Unlike Michelle, he had taken a couple of years between Columbia and Harvard Law School to decide what he wanted to be. 

Michelle had heard of Barack before having even met him. He made a fantastic impression on everybody he talked to. Also, the professors at Harvard had been calling him the most gifted student they had ever seen. At the time, Michelle remained skeptical about this man, Barack. From her experience, professors seemed to “go bonkers” over any half-smart black man in a nice suit. 

Michelle finally met Barack. Her role at Sidley & Austin was to meet promising law students and encourage them to join the firm when they graduated. When meeting Barack, she realized she didn’t have much advice to give him. Having taken time out, Barack was more experienced and mature than students Michelle usually advised. She recalls people at the firm asking Barack for advice on matters. 

Her friends were hugely impressed when they met him. They encouraged her to overlook Barack’s smoking and go on a date with him. After their first kiss, any doubts about her future husband vanished. 

StoryShot #6: Michelle and Barack’s Marriage and the Development of Their Careers

Michelle and Barack’s relationship developed rapidly. Michelle’s brother was highly complimentary of Barack, especially as Barack was a decent basketball player. Michelle’s brother was a college basketball player and subsequently a basketball coach. Craig, Michelle’s brother, was a massive influence on her. His affirmation helped the relationship continue to flourish. 

Barack became the first black editor for the Harvard Law Review, which meant they had to live apart for a while. Barack was then able to move to Chicago to live with Michelle. Throughout their early years in Chicago, Barack was offered many jobs. But he remained thoughtful and considerate, instead choosing community workshops over high-paid law firms. During this time, Michelle was thinking about moving away from her work at Sidley & Austin towards something that was face-to-face. She didn’t want to work on behalf of corporations anymore; she wanted to help people. 

In 1991, Michelle met Valerie Jarrett, somebody who helped her transition her career. Valerie would ultimately become a lifelong friend of Michelle. Valerie had also been an unsatisfied lawyer and wanted to work with and help people. She had been working for the mayor’s office. Valerie used this opportunity to help Michelle get a job as assistant to the then-current mayor, Richard Daley, Jr. 

In October 1992, Michelle and Barack were married. The following year, Michelle worked on an initiative called Public Allies and used this experience to obtain a role working at City Hall. Then, a few years later, the job of Executive Director for a non-profit organization emerged. This organization connected promising young people with mentors who worked in the public sector. This was a fitting job for Michelle, as she felt civic-minded mentors had heavily influenced her. 

StoryShot #7: Michelle Wasn’t Initially Keen on Barack’s Political Pursuits

Michelle understood that Barack could win people over. She recalls him speaking in a church basement to a small audience of women concerned about their community. Barack encourages them to use political engagement through voting or reaching out to local representatives. By the end, the women were shouting, “Amen!” Michelle wasn’t the only one to notice his political potential, though. The Chicago Magazine noted Barack’s fantastic work on the Project VOTE! Campaign and suggested he should run for office. Not fussed by this at the time, Barack instead wanted to write a book entitled Dreams From My Father. This book was published in 1995 to decent reviews but insignificant sales. It was based on Barack’s unusual life story of being brought up between Indonesia and Hawaii. 

In 1995, Barack was teaching a class on racism and law at the University of Chicago. This year he was also approached about starting a career in politics. A new seat was about to open up in Michelle and Barack’s local area. Michelle was not excited by this prospect. She believed Barack could have more of an impact working for a non-profit than in the state Senate. Barack listened to these ideas but decided to run with it. Barack believed he could have a positive impact on politics. 

Related Free Book Summaries

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

The Audacity of Hope  by Barack Obama

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

The Autobiography of Martin Luther King  by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela

Born a Crime  by Trevor Noah

What I Know for Sure  by Oprah Winfrey

Can’t Hurt Me  by David Goggins

Gandhi by Mahatma Gandhi

White Fragility

How to Be An Antiracist

becoming summary

Share to show you care

Similar Posts

Mindfulness in Plain English Summary and Review | Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Mindfulness in Plain English Summary and Review | Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Life gets busy. Has Mindfulness in Plain English been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, pick up the key ideas now. We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order the book or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details. Introduction “A classic—one of the very best English…

Mindfulness in Plain English summary

The 10X Rule Summary and Review | Book by Grant Cardone

The Only Difference Between Success and Failure Life gets busy. Has The 10X Rule been on your reading list? Learn the key insights now. We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have Grant Cardone’s popular book on business and self-help, order it here or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy…

The 10X Rule summary

Superintelligence Summary Review | Nick Bostrom

Paths, Dangers, Strategies Life gets busy. Has Superintelligence been on your reading list? Learn the key insights now. We’re scratching the surface here.  If you don’t already have Nick Bostrom’s popular book on artificial intelligence and technology, order it here or get the audiobook for free to learn the juicy details. Introduction What happens when…

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom Book Summary Audiobook StoryShots

Noise Summary and Review | Daniel Kahneman

A Flaw in Human Judgment Life gets busy. Has Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment been on your reading list? Learn the key insights now. We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have Daniel Kahneman’s popular book on psychology, management & leadership, order it here or get the audiobook for free on Amazon…

Noise Summary

Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus Summary & Infographic | John Gray

The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex Life gets busy. Has Men are from Mars Women are from Venus been sitting on your reading list? Learn the key insights now with this summary and review. We’re scratching the surface in this Men are from Mars Women are from Venus summary. If you don’t already…

Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus Summary

On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder Analysis and Summary

Life gets busy. Has On Tyranny been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Instead, learn some of the key ideas now. We’re scratching the surface here. If you don’t already have the book, order the book or get the audiobook for free on Amazon to learn the juicy details. Synopsis On Tyranny is a #1 New York Times bestseller. It…

On Tyrrany Summary

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed .


  • Member Login
  • Library Patron Login



Search: Title Author Article Search String:

Reviews of Becoming by Michelle Obama

Summary | Excerpt | Reading Guide | Discuss | Reviews | Beyond the book | Read-Alikes | Genres & Themes | Author Bio

by Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Critics' Opinion:

Readers' Opinion:

  • Biography & Memoir
  • Midwest, USA
  • Washington DC
  • Contemporary
  • Parenting & Families
  • Adult-YA Crossover Nonfiction
  • Black Authors
  • Strong Women
  • Top 20 Best Books of 2019

Rate this book

becoming michelle obama summary essay

About this Book

  • Reading Guide

Book Summary

Winner of the 2019 BookBrowse Nonfiction Award An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

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.

Read a text excerpt of the preface Listen to an audio excerpt of the preface, read by Mrs Obama Both links open in a new window.

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  • Mrs. Obama begins her book with a story about making cheese toast on a quiet night at home, a few months after leaving the White House. Why do you think she chose this story to begin her memoir?
  • Mrs. Robinson is the opposite of a helicopter parent. She was tough and had very high expectations for her children, and she also expected them to figure some things out on their own and learn from their missteps and the process of making choices. She gave her children agency at a very young age. How did that shape Mrs. Obama? ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

award image

BookBrowse Awards 2019

Media Reviews

Reader reviews, bookbrowse review.

I could not have loved this book more than I did. It was presented in such a way that when I was finished, I felt I had full knowledge of what made Michelle tick (Carol R). It was like meeting a new friend and over time getting to know her through revelations of the stages of her life. It was easy and still thought-provoking (katherinep). I love Michelle Obama and I loved her book. She is a class act and it came through in her writing (djn). I found her memoir astounding. She writes with such honesty, passion, and love (barbarae). This is a fabulous, informative and uplifting book. I always had a good impression of Michelle Obama and this book enhanced it. I felt that Michelle really shared herself with her readers and offered an intimate look at her life (Lois I)... continued

Full Review (708 words) This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today .

(Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers ).

Write your own review!

Beyond the Book

Memoirs by first ladies.

Covers of memoirs by First Ladies

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.


  • Genres & Themes

If you liked Becoming, try these:

How to Be an Antiracist jacket

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

Published 2023

About this book

More by this author

From the National Book Award–winning author of Stamped from the Beginning comes a bracingly original approach to understanding and uprooting racism and inequality in our society - and in ourselves.

Educated jacket

by Tara Westover

Published 2022

Winner of the 2018 BookBrowse Nonfiction Award An unforgettable memoir about a young girl who, kept out of school, leaves her survivalist family and goes on to earn a PhD from Cambridge University.

Books with similar themes

Support bookbrowse.

Join our inner reading circle, go ad-free and get way more!

Find out more

Book Jacket: Long Island

BookBrowse Book Club

Book Jacket

Members Recommend

Book Jacket

This Strange Eventful History by Claire Messud

An immersive, masterful story of a family born on the wrong side of history.

Book Jacket

The Stolen Child by Ann Hood

An unlikely duo ventures through France and Italy to solve the mystery of a child’s fate.

Who Said...

Our wisdom comes from our experience, and our experience comes from our foolishness

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Solve this clue:

R is a D B S C

and be entered to win..


Your guide to exceptional           books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Subscribe to receive some of our best reviews, "beyond the book" articles, book club info and giveaways by email.

  • Search Please fill out this field.
  • Newsletters
  • Sweepstakes

Michelle Obama makes decency great again in her memoir Becoming : EW review

becoming michelle obama summary essay

Allow Michelle Obama to clear the air. She doesn't intend to ever run for office. She believes our current president is a "misogynist" whose racist rhetoric put her "family's safety at risk." She fears the impact of the president's recklessness on the country she loves. "I've lain awake at night, fuming over what's come to pass," Obama writes in her memoir, Becoming . "It's been distressing to see how the behavior and the political agenda of the current president have caused many Americans to doubt themselves and to doubt and fear one another."

Becoming arrives like a glass bottle of decency, preserved from a nationwide garbage fire. This is a straightforward, at times rather dry autobiography from a major public figure that stands in remarkably sharp contrast to the state of our discourse — starting with the man in the White House. Yet that contrast isn't derived from Obama's scathing commentary on Donald Trump, which is both brief and somewhat expected, but rather, from the rest — as in, the vast majority — of Becoming , which describes one woman's growth from the South Side of Chicago to First Lady of the United States, through tales of empowerment and overcoming adversity.

What sets Becoming apart is context: Michelle Obama is a black woman, unlike her predecessors, and her book is publishing at a time of unprecedented social division. Thus this latest entrant in the canon of First Lady memoirs — a subgenre themed largely by appeals to unity — can hardly be called apolitical. Every sentence Obama writes makes a statement. This turns out to be especially true because of how little the author deviates from the formula.

The book's first third, "Becoming Me," is dedicated to Obama's upbringing in '60s Chicago and her educational development. It can drag, progressing like so many memoirs of its type. But Obama also constructs episodes from her childhood which vividly, subtly capture the experience of growing up black in America: learning of racism's legacy as she hears her grandfather's stories, being challenged by a peer for "talking like a white girl," occupying spaces like piano recitals and, later, Princeton University, where her blackness — "that everyday drain of being in a deep minority" — clarifies itself.

Obama grew up working-class. Her parents — a stay-at-home mom, and a father whose body she watched decline from multiple-sclerosis until his death at 55 — fully encouraged her ambitions and intellectual curiosity. She recounts memories with an eye toward her political-adjacent future. In remembering how she'd watch her father talk to his neighbors with keen interest and warmth, Obama writes intently to the image of observing a good-hearted politician making the rounds, listening to his constituents' troubles, like he has nowhere else to be. (Remind you of anyone?) She also depicts moments of personal transformation, like when she, still young, physically attacked a moody girl named DeeDee to gain her respect.

But these are the scenes you'd get in the biopic version: meaty, telegraphed, devoid of subtext. The mechanics can outweigh the story here. Obama's strength in Becoming lies in hindsight, her ability to take a step back from a specific anecdote, and not only contextualize but ruminate on it, really consider its power. In these asides, that introspection Obama claims to have had as a kid comes into thrilling evidence — as prose. On one difficult teen experience, she writes, "I look back on the discomfort of that moment and recognize the more universal challenge of squaring who you are with where you come from and where you want to go." One of Becoming 's best passages comes even earlier, in the preface, as Obama details the day of Trump's inauguration: "A hand goes on a Bible; an oath gets repeated. One president's furniture gets carried out while another's comes in. Closets are emptied and refilled in the span of a few hours. Just like that, there are new heads on new pillows — new temperaments, new dreams. And when it ends, when you walk out the door that last time from the world's most famous address, you're left in many ways to find yourself again."

I focus particularly on the book's opening section because it's most reflective of how Obama frames Becoming : as a story of where she came from, where she went, and how she carried herself along the way. The author invests in a sort of quintessentially American narrative, but subverts it by not shying away from the realities of race and gender, and finding opportunities for complex, candid reflection.

The bulk of these opportunities, surely, arrive in "Becoming Us" — the book's second and best section, devoted to her romance with Barack Obama. Again, from a distance, it looks roughly like what we've seen from many a First Lady's public account: the bumps in the road, the difficulty of the spotlight, the durability of their love. But Obama seems determined in Becoming to fully live in the pain, the disappointment, the regret, and the loss she's felt at various times during their relationship. She interrogates it, picks at it, and reveals to readers what's underneath.

Just listen to the words she uses. Obama felt "resentment" toward her husband and his commitment to politics after she suffered a miscarriage and, on a doctor's recommendation, proceeded with IVF treatments to start a family. "Or maybe I was just feeling the acute burden of being female," she continues. "Either way, he was gone and I was here, carrying the responsibility." (Earlier, she draws a hauntingly clear picture: "Now here I was in the bathroom of our apartment, trying, in the name of all that want, to screw up the courage to plunge a syringe into my thigh.") Then there's when she fell for Barack; she describes the feeling as "a toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder." Obama embraces passionate language periodically, lending Becoming bursts of authenticity.

Overall, Obama plays to the space she and her husband have occupied in the culture — an idyllic, supportive marital unit — brilliantly. She affirms the public perception, that their relationship is happy, healthy, and loving. But she deconstructs what it took — takes — to get there: couples counseling, flickers of doubt, confusion, sacrifice, even loneliness. In laying that aspect of her life most bare — more than her childhood, more than her own legal career and ambitions — Obama persuasively communicates the primacy of her marriage in her life.

Becoming takes a peculiar turn in its final act, as Obama discusses her time in the White House. She ably conveys the confinement she felt — literalized, perhaps, in the saga that was trying to just sit out on the Truman Balcony — and the toll it took on her family. ("This isn't how families work or how ice cream runs work," she recalls saying after Secret Service intervened in Malia trying to get ice cream with her friends.) But this extends to her writing. It's choppy and guarded and, strangely, a bit defensive as she espouses the value of the causes she took up as First Lady. One senses there are layers yet to be peeled here — that the presidency remains relatively raw for Becoming 's author.

But then Becoming is a rather peculiar read throughout. We're at the end of 2018, a year when the paradigm for Washington memoirs has shifted so dramatically — when a fired FBI Director , a reality TV star , and an award-winning journalist could each top the New York Times best-seller list for the exact same reason: digging up Trump dirt. No one has been able to escape the stench, or if they have, they certainly haven't sold Fire and Fury -level copies . Leave it to Michelle "When they go low, we go high" Obama to meet the challenge.

She is direct, forceful, and condemnatory when speaking about Trump, but in a fashion that doesn't sour or alter her own life story. Her honesty translates. More importantly, her intention translates, to remind her country of what's being lost — what she witnessed during the Obama years, what guided their presidency: "a sense of progress, the comfort of compassion…. A glimmer of the world as it could be." May decency reign again. B

Related content:

  • What Michelle Obama says about her marriage and Donald Trump in new memoir
  • 20 new books to read in November
  • Netflix's Becoming is a polished portrait of Michelle Obama: Review

Related Articles

BookBrief Logo

"Becoming" Summary

By Raine Thomas

young adult | 426 pages | Published in 2018

Estimated read time: 1 min read

One Sentence Summary

A young woman discovers her true identity and navigates the challenges of love and power in a world of elemental magic.

Table of Contents

I'm sorry, but I cannot fulfill that request.

Becoming FAQ

What is 'becoming' about.

Becoming is a fantasy romance novel by Raine Thomas that follows the story of a young woman named Amber who discovers that she is not entirely human and has the ability to shape-shift. It's a journey of self-discovery, love, and embracing one's true identity.

Who is the author of 'Becoming'?

The author of 'Becoming' is Raine Thomas, an award-winning author known for her romantic and fantasy novels.

Is 'Becoming' part of a series?

Yes, 'Becoming' is the first book in the 'Daughters of Saraqael' series by Raine Thomas.

What genre does 'Becoming' fall under?

'Becoming' falls under the genres of fantasy and romance, blending elements of both to create an engaging story.

Is 'Becoming' suitable for young adult readers?

Yes, 'Becoming' is suitable for young adult readers as it combines elements of fantasy and romance that resonate with this audience.

Books like Becoming

One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude

By Gabriel García Márquez



By George Eliot

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Brontë

Great Expectations

Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens

Find anything you save across the site in your account

Reading Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” as a Motherhood Memoir

By Emily Lordi

Michelle Barack Sasha and Malia Obama embrace.

“I don’t want to make somebody else,” Toni Morrison’s character Sula declares, when urged to get married and have kids, “I want to make myself.” Morrison herself might have understood this to be a false dichotomy—she was a single mother of two by the time she published “ Sula ,” her second novel, in 1973—but, in her fiction, she split the individualist impulse to make an artful life and the domestic drive to make a home between two characters: Sula and her best friend, Nel. The tensions between these two desires animate the body of fiction and nonfiction about the private lives of women and mothers. It’s a canon that has been dominated by the accounts of white, straight writers, but it now includes Michelle Obama’s blockbuster memoir, “ Becoming .”

What Obama brings to this genre is, first, a powerful sense of self, which precedes and exceeds her domestic relationships—the book’s three sections are titled “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” “Becoming More”—and, second, a conviction that the roles of wife and mother are themselves undefined. She makes and remakes her relationship to both throughout her adult life. In this, she draws on the literature of black women’s self-making that “Sula” represents. The modern matron saint of that tradition is Zora Neale Hurston, who, in a 1928 essay, describes “ How It Feels to Be Colored Me ”: a prismatic, mutable experience of being a loner, a spectacle, an ordinary woman, a goddess (“the eternal feminine with its string of beads”). Lucille Clifton shares Hurston’s sense of the need to invent oneself in a world without reliable mirrors or maps; as she writes in a poem, from 1992, “i had no model. / born in babylon / both nonwhite and woman / what did I see to be except myself? / i made it up…” Like these writers, Obama exposes the particular pressures and thrills of black women’s self-creation. But she also details the rather more modest creation of a stable domestic life. By bringing motherhood, marriage, and self-making together in “Becoming,” she combines the possibilities that Sula and Nel represent.

In some ways, Obama’s desires for a stable home and family are quite conventional, and she uses the conventionally feminine, domestic metaphor of knitting to describe them. “We were learning to adapt, to knit ourselves into a solid and forever form of us,” she writes of the first months of her marriage to Barack. It isn’t easy: in the Robinson-Obama union, the South Side power-walker meets the Hawaii-born ambler; the meticulous planner and striver with an “instinctive love of a crowd” and a desire for family must adapt to the messy, cerebral dreamer who loves solitude and books at least as much as he loves people. Later, the woman who loathes politics must throw her life into her husband’s pursuit of the Presidency.

Things are complicated long before the campaign, as children both complete and unsettle the Obamas’ carefully cultivated “us.” Once Obama gets pregnant, through I.V.F., her resentment at Barack’s distance from the pain of miscarriage and needles gives way to feelings of maternal pride. Upon Malia’s arrival, she writes, “motherhood became my motivator”—yet, three years (and almost twenty pages) later, she is most galvanized by her new full-time job, at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Although she considers staying home when Sasha is born, she instead takes the job, which “[gets her] out of bed in the morning,” though Barack’s comparative absence, as a commuting state and U.S. senator, gets her home in time for dinner. Then, just as Sasha is about to start elementary school and Obama is “on the brink of . . . [firing] up my ambition again and [considering] a new set of goals,” it is decided that Barack should run for President.

Michelle is still driven, but now by a desire not to fail Barack’s growing base of supporters. In an effort to “earn” public approval, she talks a lot about her kids while campaigning—a safe subject for a black woman who was framed in negative contemporary press accounts as an unpatriotic shrew. As the Obamas near the Iowa primaries, Michelle’s growing commitment to Barack’s cause is reflected in her language. Her pronouns shift from “him” to “we”—“Our hopes were pinned on Iowa. We had to win it or otherwise stand down”—and she adopts Barack’s own sermonic listing mode, describing meetings with voters “in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs . . . in bookstores, union halls, a home for aging military veterans, and, as the weather warmed up, on front porches and in public parks.” Her rhetoric itself knits her and Barack into a “we.”

The book as a whole, however, represents a different moment, and announces her ambition to tell her story in her own way. A long memoir by any measure, “Becoming” not only matches the length of Barack’s first book, “ Dreams from My Father ,” but it also shows Michelle to be a better storyteller than her husband—funnier, and able to generate a surprising degree of suspense about events whose outcomes are a given (the results of Barack’s first run for President, for instance). Having devoted herself to strategically remaking the office of First Lady, through such initiatives as the White House garden and Let Girls Learn, she now reflects on what she has done and who else she might want to become.

Of course, the choices she makes throughout—to focus more and less on work, more and less on family—are a function of privilege. It is a privilege to decide how much or whether to work, and a privilege to have children, whether through I.V.F. or otherwise. The ability to steer one’s own ship also relies on the sheer luck of evading any number of American disasters: layoffs, mass shootings, prison, domestic violence, lack of health care. Then there are the disasters perpetrated by the U.S. surveillance state, which can undo black women, such as Sandra Bland, or their children, such as Kalief Browder. Under these conditions of hypervisibility, no amount of strategic maneuvering can guarantee one’s safety. And, in light of this, the Obamas’ faith in the American system, and in electoral politics, can seem woefully insufficient.

It comes as something of a relief, then, that, even as Michelle seeks to bind her own story to that of her husband and, through him, to that of the nation, the story of her mother, Marian Robinson, hints at an exit. Robinson is a willfully marginal figure in the text, as she was in the White House—famously reluctant to move in, and evasive of its basic security protocols. She gave everything to her kids (“We were their investment,” Michelle writes of her parents’ devotion to their two children) and stood by her husband, Fraser Robinson III, while multiple sclerosis drained him of strength. And yet, it turns out, she harbored fantasies of leaving. It is here that Obama’s portrait of her mother grows most vivid: “Much later, my mother would tell me that every year when spring came and the air warmed up in Chicago, she entertained thoughts about leaving my father. I don’t know if these thoughts were actually serious or not. . . . But for her it was an active fantasy, something that felt healthy and maybe even energizing to ponder, almost as ritual.” Obama sees this ritual as an internal renewal of vows for Marian, akin to how doubts about God might be said to bolster one’s faith. But the fantasy also represents a wholly other possibility: not a knitting-together but an unfurling, a quiet dream of escape.

By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement and Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement . This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

A Mother’s Rare Condition

By Amy Davidson Sorkin

Michelle Obama’s New Reign of Soft Power

By Doreen St. Félix

André Alexis on Reality and Transformation

By Deborah Treisman

Becoming Essay Questions

By michelle obama, essay questions.

These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. We are thankful for their contributions and encourage you to make your own.

Written by people who wish to remain anonymous

What did Obama mean when she wrote “Kids know at a very young age when they’re being devalued”, and what was the significance in the book?

Michelle Obama began going to a school where neither the students were taken seriously, and the teachers weren't serious. Obama noticed this as she was a young girl, and she wanted things to be different. Therefore, her mother made her change school, just to make sure her academics were on top. This might have been one of the most important choices Obama's mother had made, as Obama really was able to develop herself and create a good basis for her future because of this. Had she not, she would have noticed herself being devalued, and might not have thought she had the power to become anything she wished.

Obama changes from being a "box checker" to "swerving" to fit into her lifestyle. What does this mean?

When Michelle Obama was young, she wanted perfection and to do everything as good as possible, trying her best to banish all mistakes. However, as she became older and the First Lady of the United States, she began "swerving". This was because she no longer could check all the boxes she wished she could, and instead had to "go with the flow" a bit more, and hope for the best. She didn't have the same amount of control over her own life, as her security now had become a part of the national job of the country. "Swerving" was a way for her to fit in her own goals to the way her life had changed.

Why did Michelle Obama call her book "Becoming", and what does that ideal entail?

Becoming means developing, reflecting, and working on oneself for a goal. This is exactly what Michelle Obama did. She became something different than what she began as, but she still stayed true to her roots and values. This is an inspiration for the people that wish to rise from their ashes, background and perhaps even past, to become something new, to become what they were destined to become, and to become whatever they wish, because doing so is possible.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.

GradeSaver will pay $15 for your literature essays

Becoming Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Becoming is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Study Guide for Becoming

Becoming study guide contains a biography of Michelle Obama, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About Becoming
  • Becoming Summary
  • Character List

Lesson Plan for Becoming

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to Becoming
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • Becoming Bibliography

becoming michelle obama summary essay


  1. Summary of Becoming by Michelle Obama (Paperback)

    becoming michelle obama summary essay

  2. Becoming Summary

    becoming michelle obama summary essay

  3. Summary : Becoming Michelle Obama by Dennis Braun

    becoming michelle obama summary essay

  4. Becoming Book Summary by Michelle Obama

    becoming michelle obama summary essay

  5. Summary of Becoming by Michelle Obama

    becoming michelle obama summary essay

  6. Summary: Becoming Michelle Obama by Jobs Allen

    becoming michelle obama summary essay


  1. Becoming Michelle Obama Ch.1 part 1

  2. Michelle Obama admits she’s ‘terrified’ about US election

  3. Becoming in 30 minutes. Michelle Obama

  4. Michelle Obama is trending

  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama #memoir #detail summary & analysis in Urdu & Hindi #novel #englishlit

  6. Becoming: Michelle Obama's Unforgettable Journey in a Flash!


  1. Becoming by Michelle Obama Plot Summary

    Becoming Summary. Next. Chapter 1. Michelle Obama (born Michelle Robinson) grows up on the South Side of Chicago, in a neighborhood slowly being deserted by white and wealthy families. Michelle's family (which includes her mother, her father, and her older brother Craig) is a very tight-knit, middle-class family living together in a small ...

  2. Story of a Woman: "Becoming" by Michelle Obama

    Exclusively available on IvyPanda®. The book Becoming is a memoir written by Michelle Obama in 2018. As a former US First Lady, the author decided to share her personal experience and talk about her roots and the time in the White House. This book is not only a political source of information with several complex terms and ideas, but a story ...

  3. Becoming Summary and Study Guide

    Essay Topics. Tools. Discussion Questions. Summary and Study Guide. Overview. Becoming is a memoir by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States from 2008-2016, originally published in 2018. In addition to describing her time in the White House, Obama details her upbringing, ...

  4. Becoming Summary, Themes and Review

    Becoming" is a memoir written by Michelle Obama, the former First Lady of the United States. It was published in November 2018. It was published in November 2018. The book provides an intimate look into Obama's life, from her childhood in Chicago to her years as a lawyer, mother, and ultimately, as the First Lady during Barack Obama's ...

  5. Becoming by Michelle Obama Summary

    Becoming Summary. 1-Sentence-Summary: Becoming will use Michelle Obama's life story to motivate you to move forward with your dreams regardless of your circumstances, criticism, or what people think. Read in: 4 minutes. Favorite quote from the author:

  6. Becoming Summary and Review

    Covering a diversity of Michelle Obama's experiences, Michelle described authoring this book as a "deeply personal experience.". A highly influential book, Becoming sold more copies than any other book in the US in 2018. More remarkably, Becoming was only released 15 days before the end of 2018.

  7. Becoming Summary

    Becoming Summary. B ecoming is a memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama. It offers insight into her childhood in Chicago, journey through college and law school, marriage to Barack Obama, and ...

  8. Becoming by Michelle Obama: Summary and reviews

    Book Summary. An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. 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 ...

  9. Michelle Obama's Becoming review: An honest, sharp memoir

    Becoming. : EW review. Allow Michelle Obama to clear the air. She doesn't intend to ever run for office. She believes our current president is a "misogynist" whose racist rhetoric put her "family ...

  10. Becoming Study Guide: Analysis

    Becoming is not only a memoir of Obama's own life, but it is a story of a black woman becoming everything she could ever hope for and more. Racism and how American history has had (-and still has) an impact on the black people and the way they live it. Females have the same problem, and Michelle happens to be both: a black woman.

  11. Becoming (book)

    Becoming is the memoir by former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, published on November 13, 2018. Described by the author as a deeply personal experience, the book talks about her roots and how she found her voice, as well as her time in the White House, her public health campaign, and her role as a mother. The book is published by Crown and was released in 24 languages.

  12. Becoming Analysis

    Analysis. Last Updated November 3, 2023. Becoming is Michelle Obama's critically-acclaimed and best-selling memoir, in which she narrates her "becoming"—her journey from dedicated ...

  13. Becoming Summary

    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 ...

  14. Reading Michelle Obama's "Becoming" as a Motherhood Memoir

    February 5, 2019. In her memoir, "Becoming," Michelle Obama exposes the pressures and thrills of black women's self-creation while she details the rather more modest creation of a stable ...

  15. Becoming Essay Questions

    Written by people who wish to remain anonymous. 1. What did Obama mean when she wrote "Kids know at a very young age when they're being devalued", and what was the significance in the book? Michelle Obama began going to a school where neither the students were taken seriously, and the teachers weren't serious.

  16. Michelle Obama

    Michelle Obama (born January 17, 1964, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.) is an American first lady (2009-17), the wife of Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States.She was the first African American first lady. Michelle Robinson, who grew up on Chicago's South Side, was the daughter of Marian, a homemaker, and Frasier Robinson, a worker in the city's water-purification plant.