Becoming ended up being an epic read for me, simply because I put the book down when I was half way through it in the New Year, when we were away and busy with family and summer and stuff, and then I forgot to pick it up again.
Other new, shiny books caught my eye and it kept sliding down the pile of half read books by my bed.
A few nights of waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep though, has cured that problem.
I find it too hard to read my fiction books at that time of the night, but the heavier non-fiction titles don’t work either. An easy to read memoir is the thing that does the trick.
And a memoir that is full of the such hope, dignity and grace is the perfect antidote for the 3am blues.
I’m not sure I can add anything new to all the other rave reviews I’ve read for this book where Michelle Obama walks us through her childhood, her school years, her career, meeting Barack, having a family and moving to the White House. All I can add perhaps, is a perspective from the other side of the world.
There may be nuances particular to the American dream in Michelle’s story that those from elsewhere may not fully appreciate, but I could appreciate the message about the importance of education to change lives. However, as Michelle realises too, it’s not just a good education that gets you there.
In our modern Western world, a large majority of children have access to a good education. But not every child has the advantage of a strong, supportive, loving family or an inspiring teacher that can change the course of their lives, or a minister or neighbour who mentors them towards a better way. Good education, especially in the early years is vital, but so too are these connections, these people who boost, push, motivate, encourage and manage to say just the right thing at the right time to make a difference. People who open just one door, or people who do that one thing that makes your life easier for just that one magic moment. Then having the right personality to be able to make the most of those moments is the final blessing.
Michelle Obama was fortunate enough to have most of those things work in her favour. But it’s her gratitude and her ability to give back, or to pay her good fortune forward, that makes her shine with grace and dignity.
Gratitude, grace and dignity are sadly lacking in much of world politics at the moment. Arrogance and bullying tactics have been mistaken for gravitas.
It is a curious thing watching all our Western democracies floundering on a bed of teenage petulance, seemingly in a race with each other to the bottom of human decency and kindness. I sometimes wonder if we are watching the death throes of the democratic process as we know it. The Obama White House may be the last decent government anywhere in the world for a long time to come. Living under the political systems currently in China, Russia, North Korea or Iran are not enviable or desirable in any way shape or form either. It could be easy to despair.
I have to remind myself of inspirational leaders like Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand or Justin Trudeau in Canada to know that it is still possible for kindness and inclusivity to be the guiding philosophy of a government and its leader.
Becoming reminds us that there are people in leadership positions who care, and care deeply. That small changes can lead to bigger changes. That individuals can make a difference. And that kindness and generosity will always be more admired than the alternative.
Michelle Obama’s book is charming, genuine and heart-warming. The perfect antidote for the 3am blues.
8/20 Books of