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Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is Authentic and Honest – Part One By Cassiette West-Williams

One book that will not remain on the shelves in stores is Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”, which has been the fastest selling book internationally. Some Chicago bookstores have sold out, while retail centers that do have it in stock have security guards standing in close by the tables, where they are displayed.

Mrs. Obama’s book arrived via Amazon, on my front door step, around 6:30am. Ripping the cardboard off, as I transported my grandson to school, I was very anxious to read and digest it right then. However, for me, it is not the type of book you can rush and read. Several portions of the book required careful re-reading and re-thinking.

 Her big brother, Craig Robinson, and I attended our neighborhood elementary school from kindergarten to third grade together.  We were not friends, nor ever shared the same interests, but remained an ever-present competitor academically. I could not wait to clear the calendar and read the 421 page turner. Was there something she would write, that would uncover why he was so driven?

How was Michelle Obama going to portray my neighborhood, my local public school, the classmates and circles we shared? Would she gloss over the ‘hood and go straight to the Ivy League universities or would she tell it the way it actually is around these parts? 

You can walk from my home to her childhood home in less than five minutes, if you cut across the park of the local high school building.

Two days later, and only half way through her emotionally riveting memoir, I can understand why hustlers are selling copies of this book like hot cakes on these corners.

 Mrs. Obama does not sugar coat the reflective moments on the South Side of the city and allows the reader to see her as a resilient human being.

 Michelle Robinson is feisty and brutally honest about her family, the teachers in Chicago Public Schools, her friends–which are listed by name and their households, her college counselor, her husband (President Barack H.  Obama) and many issues one faces in an urban city and setting.

Miss Robinson was outspoken and allowed to live in the shadows of her older brother, having him as her confidant and early mentor. Whatever Craig sought out and conquered, she remained searching for her place and acceptance among elders. 

What is lacking for me is that Mrs. Obama is very matter of fact about specific situations. When her aunt and uncle make their transitions, she realized that life will move on, and one better be ready to move on after the home going services. You feel her sadness, but certainly cannot feel or see her tears being shed.

When the high school counselor does not support her decision to attend Princeton, you can imagine her facial expressions, and understand that as a high school senior, she had the maturity to not return to the person’s office, to display her acceptance letter. She is not writing as if she is a perfect teen, and owns her mistakes and antics, but having attended an upwardly mobile high school exposed her to broader choices, diverse people and many opportunities that working class and poor scholars are not offered at a local high school. 

You can mix and mingle with a famous daughter regularly or hang out with your friends from the ‘hood, when you attend a higher end high school. As Michelle Robinson, she learned how to weave in and out of the Jack and Jill members and come into her own.

Her brother, Craig, attended a Catholic high school and began traveling with summer basketball leagues, leaving his sister to develop her personality, goals, ambitions, and set her sights high. And despite earning her degrees and high school European venture, she remained a faithful daughter and came home to live with her parents by choice. 

This queen knew how to weigh her options, select her inner circles and work that Black girl magic outside of this ‘hood, to come home accomplished and grounded. She was not a snob, and knew how to plan for options at the law firm.

Mrs. Obama embraces the home cooked meals by the local Black woman, who entertains the college crowd, but is unable to have an intelligent conversation with the crowd she is hosting. The hungry college student eats, cleans the table and returns to the dorm on foot, walking with friends. Was that woman someone she was grateful for at the time or someone she could return to for grassroots information?

Nonetheless, when Miss Robinson decides to become Mrs. Obama, she conquers new challenges with skill and grace.