illustrated portrait of African American first lady Michelle Obama


by Michelle Obama

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Becoming Characters

The main characters in Becoming are Michelle, Barack, Malia, and Sasha Obama.

  • Michelle Obama is the author of the memoir and a former First Lady of the United States. She narrates her journey from her childhood through college, marriage, and her time in the White House.
  • Barack Obama is Michelle’s devoted husband and the forty-fourth President of the United States, whom she originally met while serving as his mentor at a law firm.
  • Malia and Sasha Obama are Michelle and Barack’s daughters. They inspired Michelle’s devotion to normalcy in their family life as well as her efforts as First Lady.


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Last Updated November 3, 2023.

Michelle Obama (née Robinson)

In Becoming, Michelle Obama’s memoir, she reflects on her childhood in Chicago, her education at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, the development of her relationship with Barack Obama, and her role and accomplishments in her career and as First Lady of the United States. As a child, Michelle’s life was confined to her neighborhood, and she recalls that “everything that mattered was in a five block radius.” From an early age, Michelle was determined and ambitious, earning straight As in school. Michelle struggled throughout her education and after to identify her ambition in life; she left her job at the firm Sidley & Austin not long after meeting her future husband, Barack, because she felt it to be unfulfilling. She began to seek positions where she could engage in and help her community directly. 

As First Lady, Michelle continued to focus on helping people and communities both in the United States and across the globe. She introduced a childhood nutrition initiative and helped with many more programs centering on topics such as military family life and education for girls worldwide. Recounting the challenges in her life—losing friends and family members, facing racist and sexist backlash, struggling with infertility, and navigating her and Barack’s hectic, conflicting schedules—as well as her many victories, Michelle Obama seeks to inspire her readers to identify and strive for their goals in life and “become” the best version of themselves. 

Barack Obama

Barack Obama is Michelle Obama’s husband, whom she mentored for a summer during her time as an attorney at the firm Sidley & Austin in Chicago. Barack is intelligent, dedicated, and humble; his promising future in law was noted during his first year at Harvard Law School. According to Michelle, Barack had an easy and natural relationship with her parents and brother. After initially struggling with infertility, Barack and Michelle had two daughters, Malia and Sasha, and Barack become a “great father . . . devoted to his children.” Like Michelle, Barack faced many setbacks in his career: he lost a congressional election after he was unable to fly in to vote on a crime bill, and he was met with racist comments during his presidential campaign. Nevertheless, he won the 2008 presidential election and became the forty-fourth President of the United States. 

Malia and Sasha Obama

Malia and Sasha are Michelle and Barack Obama’s daughters. After a long struggle with infertility, the Obamas welcomed Malia in 1998 and Sasha in 2001. As children, Malia and Sasha had a significant impact on the careers of both of their parents. For example, Barack missed a vote during his time as a senator in Illinois when he chose to remain on vacation with his family when Malia got sick; doing so caused him to lose a congressional election. Additionally, Michelle’s experiences fighting Malia’s rising body mass index as a child sparked her interest in childhood nutrition, which led her to develop the Let’s Move! initiative during her time as First Lady. Sasha, too, influenced her mother’s career when Michelle brought her, at the age of three months, to an interview at the University of Chicago Medical Center; Sasha’s presence at the interview helped Michelle demonstrate her need for a competitive salary and flexible schedule so she could care for her children. 

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the main presidential candidates of the 2016 election, become important figures in the memoir’s final chapters as they intersect with and influence the Obamas’ lives from a distance. Michelle helped Clinton in her campaign, hoping to prevent Trump from taking office; she was disheartened when he won the election. Michelle initially feared that Trump would manage to reverse the progress that she and her husband had made during their time in the White House, but she chooses to have hope instead that all of their progress cannot be undone by one person.

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