illustrated portrait of African American first lady Michelle Obama


by Michelle Obama

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Student Question

How do life struggles in quarantine compare to those in the book Becoming?

Quick answer:

Comparing the struggles of quarantine to Michelle Obama's struggles in Becoming can be compelling but also insensitive. Quarantine is temporary, while the struggles Obama describes as being black and a woman are systemic. However, you might discuss how quarantine resembles Obama's life in the White House. How does Obama describe life as First Lady? She says it's like "a bubble." Quarantine, too, might feel like a "bubble." Just remember that quarantine, like life in the White House, is short-term.

Expert Answers

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Comparing the struggles of life in quarantine to Michelle Obama's memoir could be interesting, but it could also be tricky.

Remember, no matter how frustrating or suffocating quarantine might feel, it's still ephemeral. It will pass. Also, even in quarantine, many still have the chance to go for a walk or go to the park. There's a way, however momentarily, to depart from it.

Comparing that to Michelle Obama's struggles with being black and being a woman might come off as grandiose or insensitive.

Regarding the plight of women, Michelle writes:

Women endure entire lifetimes of these indignities—in the form of catcalls, groping, assault, oppression. These things injure us. They sap our strength [....] We carry them everywhere, to and from school and work, at home while raising our children, at our places of worship, anytime we try to advance."

Again, such struggles are systemic and all-consuming. As Obama said, “We carry them everywhere.”

Quarantine, meanwhile, is just a short-term (even if it feels long-term) problem.

Of course, if you've someone you know or loved has died during the pandemic, you could compare that to how Obama deals with death, but that would be more about death than the quarantine.

Although, one way that you can compare quarantine life to Obama's life is when Obama talks about what it's like in the White House. Remember what she says? She calls it a "bubble." Referring to her and her daughters, she says, "None of us ever stepped outside the bubble. The bubble moved with each one of us individually."

How does this remind you of life in quarantine? Does it not feel like a "bubble"? Even if you can go for a walk or to the park, does the fact of having to return to quarantine—"the bubble"—move with you?

This area of Obama's memoir might be the best place for a comparison. Like Obama's time in the White House, quarantine, again, is temporary.

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