Becoming Me, Chapters 5–8
Michelle began ninth grade, and for the first time, she didn’t have Craig to pave the way for her. Now, she had to survive on her own, and she felt insecure as she struggled to find her place in the new social community.
For the first time, Michelle met people from various neighborhoods and social statuses. She notes that the student body was about eighty percent nonwhite and that most of her new friends were Black and, to her amazement, from privileged backgrounds. Michelle began to gain confidence as she earned good grades.
Craig attended Princeton University and, in his sophomore year, became a starter on the basketball team. Fraser sometimes took time off from work and drove twelve hours to see Craig play.
Although Marian and Fraser never discussed financial difficulties, Michelle was always aware of her parents’ sacrifices for their children. Therefore, she didn’t mention an opportunity to go on a school trip to France, assuming it was too expensive. Upon discovering the opportunity, Fraser and Marian made it clear that she must not worry about money; several months later, Michelle boarded the flight to Paris with her classmates.
One of Michelle’s best friends was Santita, the daughter of Jesse Jackson, a powerful preacher and political leader who advocated for African American rights. Michelle describes the Jackson house as an exciting place. There was “a different energy” when Reverend Jackson was home; routine fell to the side, and important plans were discussed.
The Jackson children participated in marches and boycotts and understood the importance of political activism. Michelle came to expect the unexpected when she was with them, even though she did not like surprises—Michelle preferred order and advanced planning, neither of which she would experience with Santita. For instance, the girls were swept into the Bud Billiken Day Parade, an important event promoting African American pride. Years later, Michelle would understand the importance of this parade, but at the time, she was uncomfortable about participating in something that she had not intended to do.
Michelle set her sights on Princeton University. She had excellent grades, was part of the National Honor Society, was Senior Class Treasurer, and was in the top ten percent of her graduating class. Despite her accomplishments, her college admissions counselor discouraged her from applying to Princeton. Determined to prove her wrong, Michelle applied to Princeton and several other colleges. When she was accepted to Princeton, Michelle did not visit the counselor to inform her she had been wrong; Michelle had managed to prove to herself that she was capable, which was what was truly important.
Michelle needed to begin a new life at Princeton. She broke up with David, the boy she had been dating for a year; although she loved him, her heart told her he was not the right man for her. Leaving behind her summer factory job and everything she loved in Chicago, Michelle fully devoted herself to excelling at Princeton.
Michelle noticed that the majority of students were White men and that the school, like others, was fulfilling various types of quotas. The students at Princeton were minorities, were athletes, came from lower socioeconomic areas, or had lower grade point averages.
Michelle’s advantage was, once again, being Craig’s little sister. He had established an impressive life for himself as a member of the varsity basketball team, and he introduced Michelle to numerous people, including Suzanne, who became one of her best friends.
Michelle worked as an assistant to Czerny Brasuell, the director of the Third World Center, an offshoot of Princeton dedicated to supporting minority students. She describes Czerny as a beautiful, young, hip, “outspoken defender” and “uber-mentor.” Michelle quickly learned to be prepared for anything as her assistant—babysitting Jonathan, Czerny’s son; answering questions about students’...
(The entire section is 1,444 words.)