Monthly Archives: August 2020

Review: Becoming

Recap: To us, she is the former First Lady, a woman about whom we already know so much – who Michelle Obama is married to, how many children she has, what her platform was while serving in the White House, where she’s from. Her Wikipedia page tells a lot more – where she went to school, what she got her degree in, where she worked prior to her role as First Lady.

But all that is surface information – interesting, but mostly trivial when it comes to the wealth, insight and warmth a human being has to offer. Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir Becoming offers a much truer, more authentic view of who Michelle Obama was, is and is…becoming.

The level of detail in which she remembers her life is astonishing. She is full of beautiful and meaningful stories and anecdotes, trials and tribulations that have set her on this path. Stories from her childhood are full of piano lessons, growing up black, strict but loving relatives, her mother getting her out of her second grade class, the guidance counselor who told her she wasn’t “Princeton material.” Stories from adulthood tell the romance of her relationship with President Obama, the loss of her father and close friend, and the struggles she faced with finding her purpose in work, getting pregnant and then managing work, motherhood and her husband’s politics. And then there’s the politics of it all – the criticism and backlash she faced, the lessons she learned, the racism she faced, the platforms she picked and the behind-the-scenes details of life in the White House (they pay for their own groceries!) and some of the biggest events we only know as televised (i.e. On Election Night 2008 when, after President Obama’s win and on the drive to his acceptance speech, with the streets emptied and blocked for their motorcade, one of her daughters said “Dad, I don’t think anyone’s coming to your party.)

Analysis: With this memoir, Michelle Obama paints a picture of herself as the star character in her own fish-out-of-water novel. And for the first time, despite any number of articles and interviews I’ve read, seen or heard, I got it. I got her. I understand the level at which she was swept into a life of “wife of politician.” So focused on her own career and family for so long, she never saw any of this coming. It’s hard to believe that from someone who has been married to the guy who ran the country for eight years, but reading her book, you ultimately reason one critical piece of information: she’s just a woman, like any other. A woman with doubts and fears and questioning about whether she’s doing the right thing. A woman with love for her family and unending support for those she loves. A woman who takes experiences and learns from them, hoping to only learn and grow more with each new chapter.

Becoming is not a “self-help” book, but so many parts of it are so relatable, it’s hard to ignore the insights she has to offer, like this:

This may be the fundamental problem with caring a lot about what others think: It can put you on the established path — the my-isn’t-that-impressive path — and keep you there for a long time. Maybe it stops you from swerving, from ever even considering a swerve, because what you risk losing in terms of other people’s high regard can feel too costly.

In Becoming, Michelle Obama portrays herself as the every woman, but she has lived quite a life because of the ride she’s just so happened to hop on.

Buy Becoming now in hardcover for $11.89.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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Review: Untamed

Recap: It’s really impossible for me to write what this book is about without including one of my favorite nuggets of astonishing, brain-exploding goodness. So here you go:

“We weren’t born distrusting and fearing ourselves. That was part of our taming. We were taught to believe that who are in our natural state is bad and dangerous. They convinced us to be afraid of ourselves. So we do not honor our own bodies, curiosity, hunger, judgment, experience, or ambition. Instead, we lock away our true selves. Women who are best at this disappearing act earn the highest praise: She is so selfless. Can you imagine? The epitome of womanhood is to lose one’s self completely. That is the end goal of every patriarchal culture. Because a very effective way to control women is to convince women to control themselves.”

Untamed by Glennon Doyle

So did it? Did your brain just explode? Because mine did the first time I read that. And the second and the third. And the thousandth. Because nearly every page of Glennon Doyle’s newest book Untamed did this for me. It woke me up. It woke me up to the some of the misogyny, racism and general fuckery of the world in which we live. I cried on page three. Those damn cheetahs. (Read it. You’ll see what I mean.)

With this book, Glennon Doyle took her platform as an already-bestselling author and speaker to up the ante of every person who reads it. She has an insane ability and power to say the things we [mainly women, but not strictly women] have all thought, but have never quite been able to put in words in a way that makes sense. A very untamed Glennon Doyle makes sense with words in a world that doesn’t make sense.

Analysis: If you pay attention to the literary world, I don’t have to tell you who Glennon Doyle is. She is a powerhouse bestselling author and has been for years. If you’ve never heard of her, she’s a bestselling author who is also married to the super famous female soccer player Abby Wambach.

That’s how I described her to my friend when I tried to explain why she should read Untamed. Associations are helpful, and learning that the author of a book is an amazing writer is usually not enough to hook people in. To become hooked, people need to be told something sensational or scandalous. I don’t think Doyle’s and Wambach’s marriage or love story is scandalous, but I do think it’s sensational in its beauty and honesty and excitement surrounding two powerhouses in partnership. It’s the Beyonce/Jay-Z effect.

Doyle writes about it beautifully in Untamed. The book doesn’t have a plot or a clearly developed story with a beginning, middle and end. And that’s the whole point. The book itself is untamed to mirror its title and content. It’s all over the place, sharing vignettes about Doyle’s marriages, children, addictions and lessons learned. There’s no timeline or order, which makes it great. The coming together of her and Wambach feels like the closest the book gets to a through line in terms of a continued story. Doyle details how they met, how their love blossomed, how she went public with it, how partnering with Wambach changed her perspective, her relationships and the course of her life.

This and so many other stories become the jumping off point for her larger themes about feminism, self-empowerment and activism. It’s a memoir and a self-help book that shares so intimately Doyle’s story with healthy doses of why we are the way we are and how we can be better for ourselves, each other and humanity as a whole.

Buy Untamed in hardcover for $16.80.

Or on your Kindle for $12.99.

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