With six months to go until the Nov. 13 release of Michelle Obama’s highly anticipated memoir, she posted the book’s gorgeous cover on Twitter Thursday, baring her glowing right shoulder, fanning excitement, and lighting a fire under the pre-order numbers for Becoming. It’s already listed on Amazon as the No. 1 bestseller.
Just days ago, in announcing her and her husband’s deal with Netflix to produce content that promotes greater empathy and understanding between people, Mrs. Obama lauded the power of storytelling. Not yet available even for review, the book certainly commanded a powerful price. The Obamas’ joint 2017 deal with Penguin Random House was a record-breaker. Officially concealed, it was reported by the Financial Times to be in excess of $65 million.
While a POTUS memoir is expected to follow, it’s ladies-first time for M.O. According to its website (becomingmichelleobama.com), her book is “a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling.” While there is a vast archive of material written about her, this will be the first time she is telling her own story, her own way.
We think we already know it, having watched her move and grow during more than a dozen years under the constant glare of social and traditional media. But much of what was written about her in the early years just after her husband entered public life was speculative because as the mother of two young girls, with a corporate executive job in Chicago, and a spouse mostly living in Washington, D.C. as a senator, she wasn’t carving out time to give many interviews. Nor was she apologizing for it.
[Read Black Enterprise‘s exclusive interview with former President Barack Obama]
In declining an invitation to speak at the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in those days, the then Vice President for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center noted that, as a virtual single parent, her off-hours were fully committed to her daughters.
When their father ran for and then became President of the United States, while she was clearly his primary ally, confidante, and champion, there was something in her carriage that made me wonder how she really felt. There was no precedent for what they were about to do. This was his dream, not hers.
Except for her time away at Princeton as an undergrad and then Harvard Law School, she had only lived in Chicago, her hometown. There was no reason to believe she wanted to leave her friends, her job, and her dream house—a six-bedroom Georgian revival mansion with a wine cellar in Hyde Park (purchased thanks to his own status as a bestselling author). Not even for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.’s fully staffed 55,000 square feet.
Maybe I was just projecting. After all, our backgrounds were more alike than different. She was born 11 months before me, in the same year. We both grew up in black neighborhoods in major cities, married smart men who respected and believed in us, worked, had two children, were close to our families and committed to our communities.
We are both Capricorns—goats—said to be responsible, disciplined, natural leaders who will learn from their mistakes. Capricorns are also stubborn know-it-alls who like family, tradition, music, and understated status. What do we dislike? “Almost everything at some point,” according to astrology-zodiac-signs.com.
I loathe politics and distrust virtually all politicians. I have often wondered if, with a certain glaring exception, FLOTUS didn’t feel similarly. At the very least, she had to be more than a bit distrusting when first transitioning into her new life and role. She and I didn’t grow up watching Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X lead; we grew up watching their widows and fatherless children do their best to carry on. She must have feared for POTUS’s safety. Didn’t we all?
“Writing Becoming has been a deeply personal experience,” she Tweeted alongside her smiling image on the book’s cover. “I talk about my roots and how a girl from the South Side found her voice.”
That voice has become one of the most sought after and trusted of any race or gender in the world and it will be fascinating to hear it (she is recording the audiobook herself) as she finally has her own say.
There are at least as many questions about her life as she has admirers. All of them won’t be answered here, but it’s only her first memoir. There will no doubt be others. After all, she’s only 54, and the book is called Becoming, already hinting at more to come. Finally free to pursue her own dreams, with daughters Malia at Harvard and Sasha due to leave the nest next year, in a sense, she’s only just beginning.