In this engaging memoir, the former first lady shares inspiring and funny stories, and explores her toolbox of techniques and strategies she uses to cope and thrive during challenging times. While Michelle is very accomplished as well as famous, in other ways she’s just like many of us. She’s a worrier, is not naturally self-assured, and occasionally says things she wishes she hadn’t, and dislikes change.
Full of anecdotes about herself and her family, I especially enjoyed reading about Marian Robinson, Michelle’s mother. Marian is best known for moving to the White House with the Obamas to be there for young Malia and Sasha. Practical and down-to-earth, she encouraged Michelle and her brother Craig to become self-sufficient as soon as they started school, but she was also an active listener whenever her children needed to talk, and told them (especially when having issues with teachers or other kids) that they would always be liked at home, and calms Michelle when she frets too much, even today.
Michelle shared that Barack is still not punctual and tends to work too hard. She often encourages him to take time to relax. Their two girls are now grown and sharing an apartment in Los Angeles, where they have finally learned to use coasters under cold drinks. Barack sent them information about earthquakes, and offered to have a government official give Malia and Sasha a briefing on earthquake preparedness (that they politely declined), which I thought was charming.
I suspect that Michelle is a champion list maker; how else could she accomplish so much? She shares that she still has two staffers to help her with her schedule and travel, and thanks those she has worked with in the White House and at the Obama Foundation. During the early part of the pandemic, Michelle taught herself to knit in order to relax, and has already learned to knit sweaters.
Part of the toolbox that she shares includes how to be comfortably afraid, and why being well prepared comes in handy when you’re giving a convention speech and two of the three screens aren’t working. She plans ahead, organizing get-togethers with her friends, old and new. Michelle also talks about coping with feeling “other” or different. For her, it wasn’t being a smart black girl that was so hard when she was growing up; it was being tall. Later, it was being a woman, and then being a famous black woman. Resilience and perseverance were helpful.
I haven’t read her 2018 memoir, Becoming, but if you did, you’ll most likely enjoy reading this book. Throughout The Light We Carry, Michelle is encouraging, inspiring, surprisingly relatable, full of hope and frequently funny.