Michelle Obama ‘Becoming,’ Transit Tax, Leana Wen: Broadsheet November 13
• Becoming a bestseller. In case you missed it, which honestly would’ve been hard to do, Michelle Obama has a new book out today titled Becoming. Plenty of tidbits from the memoir have trickled out in recent days as the former first lady has returned to the media circuit. (Her arena-sized book tour also gets underway this evening.)
The revelations so far have been surprisingly personal for Obama, a friendly yet impeccably polished first lady who never strayed far from her upbeat, “we go high” talking points. There are, of course, her unvarnished comments about President Donald Trump: her accusations that his “birther” conspiracy put her family in danger, her labeling of him as a “misogynist,” and her admission that she “stopped even trying to smile” at Trump’s inauguration—a point that photos of the event make plainly obvious.
Then there are the disclosures about her family life, namely that she and husband Barack attended marriage counseling—”I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently,” she says of that period—and that she miscarried before conceiving her two daughters through in vitro fertilization. Her candid talk of infertility—she administered the IVF shots herself while Barack was away serving in state legislature—is being credited for dispelling the taboos around such struggles.
In an interview with Oprah about her new book, Obama explains why she’s giving readers intimate insight into her life. “I hate when people who are in the public eye—and even seek the public eye—want to step back and say, ‘Well, I’m not a role model. I don’t want that responsibility.’ Too late. You are. Young people are looking at you. And I don’t want young people to look at me here and now and think, Well, she never had it rough. She never had challenges, she never had fears.”
The flashy rollout of Becoming is likely to continue an impressive run for first ladies. Julia Grant, widow of Ulysses, couldn’t find a publisher for her 1899 book—”You can well imagine my great disappointment and sorrow,” she wrote a friend—but every first lady who’s managed to put out a memoir has produced a bestseller, according to presidential historian Craig Fehrman.
There’s little doubt Michelle Obama, who signed a joint book deal with Barack for a reported $65 million, will continue that trend—Becoming is already No. 1 on Amazon. She may also add to this one: many memoirs by first ladies—fascinating figures swept into the most public of political spheres by means of their marriage and held to ferociously high standards—often outsell their husbands’ books.