Becoming Summary

Becoming is a memoir by former First Lady Michelle Obama. It offers insight into her childhood in Chicago, journey through college and law school, marriage to Barack Obama, and time in the White House. 

  • Michelle grew up in a loving family and was an intelligent and driven student.
  • She attended Princeton University and later Harvard Law School.
  • Michelle met Barack Obama while serving as his mentor at a law firm. They began dating and eventually were married. 
  • During Barack’s presidency, Michelle focused her efforts on childhood nutrition and health and served as “mom in chief” for their two young daughters.


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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 686


Michelle Obama’s Becoming was published in November 2018 and became, within a matter of weeks, the bestselling book of that year. The memoir offers a sweeping look at the former First Lady’s childhood, careers in law and public service, marriage to Barack Obama, and time in the White House. Becoming is divided into three sections: “Becoming Me,” “Becoming Us,” and “Becoming More.”

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Plot Summary

Michelle Robinson grew up on the South Side of Chicago with her parents and older brother, Craig, in her great-aunt and -uncle’s house. In the section of the memoir that discusses her childhood, Michelle highlights her relationship with her parents—in particular, she crafts a tender portrait of her father, who worked relentlessly at a job he did not enjoy and suffered from multiple sclerosis. Michelle’s respect for and appreciation of the sacrifices her parents made and the values they instilled in her emanate off of the page. In this section, Michelle also reflects upon her time at Princeton University. While there, she found a group of friends that proved invaluable in her college journey and helped her to feel comfortable at this mostly White institution. Michelle graduated from Princeton and went on to attend Harvard Law School. Armed with her prestigious law degree, she returned to Chicago and worked for the firm Sidley & Austin. A year into this position, Michelle began mentoring an associate named Barack Obama. 

Michelle and Barack began dating, and Barack returned to Harvard to finish his degree. While he continued his studies, Michelle faced several hardships: she realized that she felt unfulfilled in her current job and lost both her college friend Suzanne and her father—the former to cancer and the latter to a heart attack. Michelle began working at city hall, and Barack returned to Chicago to finish his studies; he proposed to Michelle on the day of his bar exam, and she accepted. They were married in 1992. 

Following her passion for helping and inspiring younger generations, Michelle began working for a group called Public Allies, where she helped young people find work in nonprofit companies. She then changed jobs once more and became an associate dean at the University of Chicago. Barack wrote a book and won a position as a senator in the Illinois Senate. Michelle and Barack’s work and home lives became more crowded as they began a family; after struggling with infertility and a miscarriage, they welcomed their first daughter, Malia, in 1998 and their second daughter, Sasha, in 2001. Michelle and Barack experienced hardships in their marriage, which grew increasingly stressed with their two young children, Michelle’s job as executive director for community affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Barack’s intense political schedule. They ultimately attended couples counseling to help their marriage in the midst of their often-conflicting agendas. 

Barack ran for the US Senate, won, and began to consider running for president. Michelle, seeing the opportunity he would have to impact many lives, supported him in this, though not without fear for her own identity. Michelle worried that her life and goals were being increasingly eclipsed by Barack’s; nevertheless, on the campaign trail, she faced criticism for being the strong and independent woman that she is. 

Barack won the Democratic nomination and, ultimately, the presidency. The Obamas’ lives changed drastically as they moved into the White House and lived under intense security. As First Lady, Michelle devoted herself to helping children and families in the US. She focused on childhood nutrition, military families, and education for girls both in the US and worldwide. 

As their time at the White House began to draw to a close, Michelle aided presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in her campaign, hoping to help prevent Donald Trump from taking office. She was discouraged when he won the presidency but found hope in the fact that one person cannot undo the progress she and her husband have accomplished during their eight years in the White House. She concludes her memoir reflecting upon the importance of personal development and aspirations—the importance of becoming.

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Chapter Summaries