Becoming: Some rambling thoughts
Osman Benk Sankoh
After a full 90 minutes plus stoppage time of watching Chelsea subjected to a shellacking from Tottenham Hotspur, and quickly responding to my senior Comrade Steven Roger’s ‘ cry-babying’ about his team’s loss, I turned to finish the last few pages of the autobiographical memoir of Michelle Obama- Becoming.
Michelle and her husband, Barack are a class act. Everything they do comes with showmanship. Released on Now, 13, Becoming has sold more than 1.4 million copies in print and digital format.
Her husband was thrust into the limelight in 2004 when then-presidential contender, John Kerry asked him to give a prime-time speech at the Democratic National Convention. For seventeen minutes, the Illinois State Senator (the skinny ‘boy’ with a funny name) roused the audience. They interrupted his speech 33 times with applause that was punctuated with a standing ovation at the end. Like a rockstar, it catapulted him into the limelight and set the stage for his eventual running for president.
Barack is an orator par excellence. During his bid for president, the eloquence of his speeches gravitated voters to him. It dared African-Americans to begin to imagine that in their lifetime, a black man was going to be at the White House. Chris Matthews, host of Hardball with Chris Matthews on MSNBC once said of an Obama speech, “ I have to tell you, you know, it’s part of reporting this case, this election, the feeling most people get when they hear Barack Obama’s speech. My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, and I don’t have that often.” And let me hasten to add, Matthews, had also cried listening to Barack deliver a speech
If the former First lady’s husband’s speeches have moved other brilliant orators like the Rev. Jessie Jackson, Oprah and Congressman John Lewis to tears, then spare a thought for those who have journeyed with Barack on his books, Dreams from My Father and, The Audacity of Hope. In these, Barack also showcased to the world his marvellous writing skills outside of his political speeches. I grew up reading novels authored by Sidney Sheldon, Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, John Grisham and Chinua Achebe to name a few. Right in the middle of these fiction writers is Barack who is not writing a fiction but a memoir and a call to action – a dare to hope. All of these are thrilling.
After reading both books, I had quickly declared the former President as the undisputed heavyweight champion of effortless brilliant oratory and writing in the Obama household.
I was wrong. That belief instantly evaporated when I picked up Becoming. If Barack is the farmer who sows the seeds of his harvest with words, then Michelle is the farmer who fertilises that same harvest with water and sunlight for a bumper harvest- words.
In Becoming, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson who often describes herself as the girl from the south-side girl of Chicago told the story of a young girl growing up on the upper floor of 7436 Euclid Avenue in Chicago. Her parents had rented the floor from her great-aunt.
She took us on a journey from that tiny upper floor to her first kiss; to Princeton; to Harvard; to the law firm, Sidley Austin where she met Barack; the presidential campaigns; the White House; her placing her hand on Queen Elizabeth; her fist-bump; planting vegetables with kids at the White House; raising two kids and the love of her life-Barack.
She also ventured to talk about intimate issues that affect a lot of women but most times, swept under the rug- miscarriages. She knows all too well when the hopes of expecting your child turn into a nightmare.
She did not spare President Trump. While her husband has generally restrained himself from going after the current president, Michelle was all-guns-blazing. She says she will never forgive Trump for his birther conspiracy against her husband and the danger it may have posed for her two lovely daughters.
For the fashionistas and stylists, Michelle also had a lot to say.
Becoming is a memoir worth reading. It is electric. It is empowering. It gives you an unending appetite for more and more of Michelle’s writings.
I laughed. I got fired up. I cried. I had hope for all the young girls (and women) who are putting all their all in all to dare dream for the skies. To this, I will say, everything is possible. Don’t give up on your dream. And above all, beg, borrow or buy a copy of BECOMING. It deprived me of my Thanksgiving turkey for which I have no regrets