Preface and Becoming Me, Chapters 1–4

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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1432


As a child, Michelle told people she would be a pediatrician because she liked children; she thought that was what people wanted to hear. As an adult, she has actually had many roles—lawyer, hospital vice president, mother, daughter, and First Lady of the United States. She has been called the most powerful woman in the world and remembers fondly her eight years in the White House, where she had everything she could ever want—except the liberty that the average family experiences. She reflects that the Obamas’ time in the White House seemed to go by quickly.

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At home alone in the family’s new house, Michelle feels it’s strange to not have anyone insisting on doing things for her or asking where she is going. She enjoys the fresh air with the dogs, who are confused by the sound of a dog barking—they are not used to having neighbors. The dogs are not the only family members who have experienced a new way of life after the White House; it has been a period of transition for the entire family. In this “new place,” Michelle writes that she “has a lot [she] want[s] to say.”

Chapter 1

Young Michelle Robinson and her brother, Craig, enjoyed playing board games, boxing, listening to music, and sliding on the floor until they crashed into the wall. At four, Michelle took piano lessons from her great-aunt Robbie, who lived on the first floor of the house while Michelle, Craig, and their parents lived on the second. Michelle’s family was very musical, especially her paternal grandfather, Purnell Shields, a carpenter who built a partition so Michelle and Craig could have their own rooms. Michelle skipped ahead in the lesson book to play advanced songs, making Robbie angry and beginning their epic battles over music.

Michelle’s father, Fraser, loved his Buick Electra, a car that he cared for meticulously, and Michelle and Craig loved riding in it. At this time, in his thirties, Fraser was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The weakness he felt in one leg was becoming noticeable, and he was already beginning to limp. Michelle reflects that it would be many years before she understood how important the car was to her father: it represented freedom.

Michelle recalls her first piano recital; the huge hall made her feel small and disoriented about so many people watching her. Robbie was supportive and encouraging so Michelle could play her song. 

Chapter 2

Michelle first learned about competition in kindergarten when quizzed on reading color names. Two students received gold star stickers, but Michelle did not, because she was unable to read the word “white.” After practicing all night, she learned the word, and asked her teacher for a second chance, this time proudly earning her gold star.

Michelle played alone with her dolls and alphabet blocks. She did not trust the other children around her toys, having seen how terribly others treated their dolls.

The neighborhood was racially mixed, and children played together without regard to skin color. Michelle recalls that her family was on the poor side of the neighborhood.

Her second-grade teacher had poor classroom management skills, so Michelle’s mother, Marian, petitioned to remove her and other highly capable students from the class. After performing well on exams, the students were placed in a third-grade class, which Michelle considered a life-changing event.

Marian encouraged Michelle to play with the other children, hoping she would follow in her brother’s footsteps. Craig played basketball and was very social; Michelle was impressed that so many people knew him. Before she could join the community of neighborhood children who played outside nearby, Michelle faced a bully named DeeDee, who constantly made disparaging comments about her. Michelle knew that the only ways to earn...

(The entire section contains 1432 words.)

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Becoming Me, Chapters 5–8