Although I've seen this book come up multiple times in my Goodreads recommendations, I've never bothered to pick it up. Now that I've read it, I completely understand the hype around it and is now joining the bandwagon of people who strongly recommend this book to whoever they come across. It actually had me close to tears in various parts throughout the book as Michelle candidly recounts the various hardships that happen behind the scenes, away from the limelight.
This post (and all the other Book Notes posts) are structured as such :
You would find this an interesting read if you...
This helps readers to identify if this book is right for them. If it does, read on or even ideally, grab the book right now. If it doesn't leave the page and browse through my other book notes or do something else more productive and would bring you more value (like subscribing to my email newsletter. Duh)
If you're still not sold, continue to this section to read the key insights I've gained from this book. Keep in mind that this are the key insights that I gained in my current state, which is subjected to so many variables. They may be obvious to you due to your experiences. However, they are impactful to me. You could be deriving a whole new set of insights that would be life-changing to you, but possibly obvious to me.
If necessary, I would add in a short note on why a particular quote has left such an impression on me. These would be in bold.
Summary (For fiction and biographies)
This section is a brief summary of the book. You only visit this part when you're on the fence and can't decide whether to give this book a try. Reading the book is just way more fun if you progress through the chapters yourself instead of reading a summary and have a set of preconcieved notion on what's to come.
This section is where I conclude the Book Notes post and I share some personal thoughts and novel insights gained from this book. If the opportunity presents itself, this is also where I share how the insights in this book had impacted my life.
You would find this an interesting read if you...
- find Michelle Robinson Obama / the Obamas inspiring.
- would like to learn a little more about racial and gender inequality.
- love reading self-help books (autobiographies are essentially self-help books on steroids, as my good friend Winston would say)
“Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child — 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
“Even if we didn't know the context, we were instructed to remember that context existed. Everyone on earth, they'd tell us, was carrying around an unseen history, and that alone deserved some tolerance.”
^Be more charitable in our judgement of others. In the past year or so, I've actively tried to be more aware of my judgement towards others. In my experiment, whenever I made a snap judgement of someone, I asked myself : if I was put in the exact same context, would I have done things very differently myself? And that helps us avoid letting our initial harsh judgements affect our resulting decisions and thought processes.
“Hearing them, I realized that they weren’t at all smarter than the rest of us. They were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them anything different.”
^Context: Them - referred to the white students in her class
“For every door that’s been opened to me, I’ve tried to open my door to others."
"He read late into the night, often long after I’d fallen asleep, plowing through history and biographies and Toni Morrison, too. He read several newspapers daily, cover to cover. He kept tabs on the latest book reviews, the American League standings, and what the South Side aldermen were up to. He could speak with equal passion about the Polish elections and which movies Roger Ebert had panned and why.”
^This is something I've been trying to work on, being more broad and diverse.
“The easiest way to disregard a woman’s voice is to package her as a scold.”
Michelle Obama recounts her time growing up on the South Side of Chicago as she shares the joys of her childhood as well as some of the tough things. She was a feisty child, driven to do well in school. Her story begins : “I spent much of my childhood listening to the sound of striving.” She speaks lovingly of her roots in this working class family andhow their values shaped the adult she would become. We witness the grief she experienced over the loss of her father and her continuing admiration and love for her mother who was tenacious in seeking a good education for her children.
In this memoir, she speaks about the discrimination against the men in her family, about being black at Princeton, about the attacks on her husband’s citizenship, a conspiracy theory primary pushed by the person who unfortunately followed him after his second term. We discover who she is in the times she is undergoing a self discovery, as she questions her aspirations, as she juggles work and motherhood as Barack’s involvement and aspirations in politics grow. It felt so intimate as she shares some personal struggles that they faced, ones that I don’t think she ever divulged publicly previous to this.
The things she chose to focus on as First Lady - children and their health, assisting military families, developing a program for mentoring young women reflect the things that are important to her and the kind of person she is. With an intellect such as hers, she easily could have taken on larger policy issues, but instead focused on children and families bringing people into the White House who would not have had the opportunity to be there if not for her.
Note : This summary is an excerpt of a book review I came across when I was deciding on whether to give this book a go. Couldn't have wrote it better myself so I just included her review in here.
This book was such an enjoyable read. Michelle's warmth and wit shone through in this book as she candidly recounted her childhood experience as well as her improbable path to the White House.
One of the things that really interest me was her style of writing, which remained consistent throughout the book. Her narration of her childhood experience in South Side Chicago was just as humble and graceful as when she recounted her experience in the limelight as First Lady.
Definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a good read, especially young, aspiring girls because frankly, there isn't many people I would rank above Michelle Obama as an inspirational figure.