Listening Length: 19 hours and three minutes
Narrator: Michelle Obama
Published: 13th November 2018
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 USA and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led the country 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, 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.
Michelle Obama is arguably among the most iconic and inspiring individuals of modern times, and in this memoir she provides a stirring first-hand account of how she went from hardworking yet humble beginnings all the way to the White House. Insightful and thought-provoking in equal measure, it carries meaningful messages as well as interesting commentary on issues of global significance.
She comes across as genuinely as one might expect, both in terms of the contents of the book and her narration of it. It begins with a detailed recollection of her upbringing in Chicago, in a close-knit family and well spoken in comparison to her peers, before becoming a lawyer and meeting her future husband Barack. The second half is primarily devoted to her experiences during his presidential campaign and his first term in office between 2009 and 2013.
Even when the subject matter being discussed is at its most political, the book always retains a personal touch that is worthy of admiration. The importance of family is never far away, as the frequent references to her daughters Malia and Sasha demonstrate, while her love of romantic comedies and the music of Stevie Wonder among other things, are not lost on the listener.
The sections about her childhood are arresting albeit slightly drawn out, but it is when she meets Barack and eventually moves into the White House that things get truly interesting. It has an engaging style which gives the reader a remarkable degree of access to what it is like to be the First Lady of the United States, live in such a place and have all of her actions and words perpetually scrutinised by the media.
One thing that really stands out is her general dislike not of politics itself, but the tribalism that exists within it. A key message emphasised at the end is that numerous politicians opt to serve their party rather than what is best for their country, a fact supported by some named examples. The subjects of race and equality are also prominent, and in the process her impressive ethos always shines through.
Elsewhere, we hear the very heartwarming story of when she first met Queen Elizabeth II, and on the other side of the coin, her thinly veiled views on Donald Trump. The ending actually comes along rather abruptly, as it goes straight from the beginning of Barack’s second term in office to the epilogue and Trump’s inauguration, but few essential details are left unsaid.
Overall, this is an autobiography that illustrates just why Michelle Obama has had such a positive effect on so many people across the world. Her values are inherent in every page and we are given an honest reflection on an extraordinary life. It is not the book for major revelations or outspoken statements; instead it takes a much more measured approach and in doing so, it truly succeeds.
Effective and engaging, I enjoyed this memoir more as it progressed. There is not much to dislike about Michelle Obama, so it was no surprise that it met my expectations.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐