“Becoming,” by Michelle Obama and “A Promised Land,” by Barack Obama were on the best-seller list for quite a while. I’ve gotten a bit tired of political books, but I was running out of new books. I’d read all the new books in Science Fiction and Fantasy and I couldn’t even find any good mysteries. I bought “Becoming” when it first came out. Garry’s a fan of Michelle Obama, though this is not political. He just thinks she’s incredibly hot.
“Becoming” got fantastic reviews. I couldn’t get into it. After I read the first few chapters, I put it aside. It wasn’t bad or dull, but it wasn’t great, either. It was too “girly” for me. I like tougher heroines. I know she had a childhood with difficulties, but I know a lot of people who had far worse childhoods.
Overall, Michelle had a loving relationship with her parents and brother. She studied hard, got into Princeton, made it into a good law firm on a partnership track — and realized she really didn’t like law. I get that. Many of us get degrees in subjects that did not become our profession. I graduated with two degrees — Music and Speech/Drama but I still became a writer. I don’t know what, if anything, that proves except you should do what you are good at and for which you have talent. Michelle found contract law uninspiring and dull. Should she give up all that money and its nice, stable future and do something else? Oh the agony! After a while, as she was “trying to find herself,” I drifted back to rereading the last two books by Jim Butcher and a couple by Jodi Taylor.
Eventually, Michelle gave up her secure, well-paid legal position. I got restless while she agonized her way through it. I know a few lawyers who didn’t practice law. They got the degree. They passed the bar. They didn’t like law, so they found other work. Not everyone was born to be Perry Mason. Somewhere during this period, she met Barack, an interesting man with a head full of ideas. I’m sure had he become president in 1960 rather than 2008, he would have been one of our great presidents and I’m not sure he wasn’t anyway. He really did have some great ideas and it’s a terrible pity we didn’t use his presidency well. We would have become a much better country.
Unfortunately, times changed. The world was not what he expected nor was the U.S.A. the same country. He thought there could be negotiations between him and the other party, but he was wrong. Somewhere during Clinton’s presidency, Republicans discovered all they needed to do was nothing. They could sit on their hands, refuse to negotiate and refuse to even listen to ideas and legislation. And for some weird reason, a lot of Americans didn’t seem to realize how badly they were being treated by the party they enshrined. Even now, I’m baffled and no amount of explanation has illuminated the mindset of those right-wing Republicans. I’m not sure I am capable of “getting it.” Whatever “it” is.
Barack Obama began his presidency in the middle of a massive fiscal crisis and collapse — and it took him pretty much all eight years to get things moving again. Meanwhile, all the Republicans had to do was sit on their hands and laugh all the way to the bank. While they happily collected big bucks from the NRA and let kids get slaughtered, they snickered at the Democrat’s attempts to somehow make life better for Americans and didn’t care when millions of Americans lost their homes. They didn’t care then and they don’t care now.
They prevented as much of Obama’s legislation from passing as they could. They refused to let his legislation even come up for Senate discussion. Obama still managed to pass a medical insurance bill that while imperfect, was hugely better than the nothing we had before. Things just got worse. The GOP (that’s “Grand Old Party” in case you didn’t know) didn’t want anything he had to offer while simultaneously refusing to come up with an alternative. They had nothing of their own to suggest, but they could say no.
Barack’s book ends relatively early in his administration. Another one is on the way. He’s a better writer than Michelle. Not that she’s bad, but her interests and mine were very dissimilar. I got tired reading the book. I don’t want to say it wasn’t well written. It was fine and I’ve read — and enjoyed — many worse reads. Sometimes, it really is a matter of personal taste. It wasn’t going to be my favorite book, but it might be yours. It depends on what you like.
“Becoming” is readable and “A Promised Land” is even better. I feel like I just spent two weeks with the Obamas. Both books end without offering much hope. Obama recognizes where he made mistakes, though he wonders (and so do I) if it would have made any difference had he corrected them. Michelle loves her daughters and feels her husband was never allowed to show what he was capable of doing. I’m pretty sure retirement suits them. They may not have worked for 40 years, but their 8 years in the White House was as bad as employment gets. It was cruel, ugly, and mean-spirited. No one should be treated that badly especially when they are trying their best. I know these books were not intended to be grim, but they were. Especially given the events of this month, it’s easy to see we were already on this current path back then. There are few light moments. Obama’s presidency was eight miserable years. I can’t imagine either of them would be interested in returning to politics.
Reading “A Promised Land” was sort of like watching “West Wing” without the snappy dialogue. As both books rolled into the presidency, they got more painful to read. Michelle moved from obsessing over what she could do with her life to dealing with the abuse heaped on both Obamas. Overall, her unwillingness to go into politics might have been the better choice for them, even if it might not have been better for us.
Just so you know, I read the two biographies as audiobooks. Both are read by their author. I love biographies when read by the author especially when they read well. They are good narrators. You can find both books at Audible.com, Amazon, and other bookstores.