Becoming Us, Chapters 9–11

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Last Reviewed on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1370

Chapter 9

Michelle spent nights at Barack’s apartment, surrounded by piles of books and clothes and few furnishings. A voracious reader with knowledge on numerous topics, Barack was concerned about gaining information to help people.

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The couple began to know each other better over long dinners, walks, movies, and deep conversations. They were opposites: she was organized, he was messy; she loved macaroni and cheese, he hated it; she liked romantic comedies, he preferred drama. Yet, they were perfect together.

Michelle learned of Barack’s heritage. His mother, Ann, was Hawaiian, and his father, Barack, was Kenyan. After marrying, Ann discovered that Barack had a wife in Nairobi. They divorced, and Ann eventually married Lolo Soetoro, moving young Barack to Jakarta. Eventually, she sent him back to Oahu to be educated. His grandparents raised him and loved him dearly. Barack had two half-sisters: Maya, who lived in Oahu, and Auma, who lived in Nairobi. He may have grown up with less stability than others, but Barack did not dwell on that fact.

One night, Michelle accompanied Barack to speak at a church in Roseland that had been devastated by the closings of steel mills in the 1980s. The parishioners, although at first skeptical, were impressed with Barack by the end of his speech. Michelle was impressed, too, by his encouraging words and investment in working “for the world as it should be.”

Barack declared his love for Michelle in August before returning to law school, nine hundred miles away. Having been accustomed to writing letters to his family all his life, Barack intended to keep in touch by writing: he was “not much of a phone guy.” However, Michelle came from a family that talked together about everything. She insisted that they call each other: “And so it was that Barack became a phone guy.”

At work, Michelle was part of a team to recruit summer associates. Usually, the firm sought recruits at prestigious law schools; less than three percent of associates and less than one percent of partners in law firms were African American. Michelle suggested that they recruit from other law schools as well and consider other criteria besides grade point average: otherwise, they would be excluding candidates who could help the firm thrive just because they were not from privileged backgrounds. Sometimes when Michelle went on recruiting trips, she had opportunities to see Barack. He was living in a tiny apartment and driving an old car with a hole in the floor.

Michelle traveled to Honolulu with Barack to meet his family for Christmas in 1989. Ann clearly adored her son, and they enjoyed discussing numerous topics. Michelle also met his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley, and his half-sister Maya. Michelle felt comfortable. She saw that Barack was devoted to Ann and cared about everyone. She watched Barack’s relaxed side surface and began to consider him as a potential lifelong partner.

Michelle’s friend Suzanne, always a free spirit, called to announce that she was quitting work to travel with her mother—a decision that Michelle could not support. However, Suzanne returned home months later with different news: both she and her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Unable to cope with her friend’s devastating news, Michelle used work as an excuse to not think about mortality. She eventually traveled to Maryland to say goodbye to Suzanne. The injustice of dying at twenty-six overtook Michelle, and she struggled in her grief as the people around her continued their lives without ever having known Suzanne. 

Chapter 10

Barack returned to Chicago for a job as a summer associate and moved in with Michelle. When he returned to Harvard, he served as president of the Harvard Law Review. Barack’s future was bright; meanwhile, Michelle experienced...

(The entire section contains 1370 words.)

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Becoming Me, Chapters 5–8


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