Somebody, somewhere close is talking about whether first lady Michelle Obama will ever run for office. Even as Hillary Clinton is primed for the run, eyes and opinions are looking further into the future. Not that Peter Slevin’s tome “Michelle Obama: A Life” broaches that topic, but it does lay the foundation for understanding who this influential African-American woman is.
The book not only is a walk through the details of her life, from her early South Side Chicago beginnings to the steps of the White House, but Slevin also delves into her family history.
No nonsense, but compassionate is how she is portrayed. When first introduced to Michelle Obama in 2008, Black women around the world cheered as they saw a relatable sister-girl sitting next to that potentially magnificent presidential candidate, Barack Obama.
It may be true that this rope-jumping, Beyonce-appreciating, Jimmy Fallon/Ellen DeGeneres-boosting first lady of the masses was told to soften her straight-out-of-Chicago B-girl stance in the beginning, but she has grown as the beloved mother of two teenage daughters, Sasha and Malia; with a focus on several issues concerning children and families.
Her mom, Marion Robinson, moved into the White House on day one, to help keep everything copacetic. Black families rejoiced at the strong visual and actuality of this Black family in the White House, whereas white reactionaries, racists and their friends shook with, and still shake with, rage at the very same notion.
The East Wing has never seen anything like a Michelle Obama, with her “Black Girls Rock” popularity and everyday-woman persona in a mostly affordable wardrobe and sensible shoes.
As she did during her recent commencement speech at Tuskegee University, she tackles issues of race and gender head on—not with polite murmurings about how she was treated and called-out-of-her-name by some media, political opponents and other disgruntled individuals. Slevin paints a vivid picture of how this Princeton and Havard Law School graduate was able to fashion herself out of a rough and tumble South Side Chicago upbringing to become the wise and focused life partner of the man who would become the president of the United States.
Readers cannot help but be impressed by the mettle of her working-class parents, Marian and Fraser C. Robinson, who raised Michelle and her brother, Craig, through the heady 1960s and 1970s.
The fortitude with which she was raised made Michelle Robinson the perfect match for the young civil rights activist and attorney, Barack Obama, to whom she would be married by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his “Unashamedly Black and apologetically Christian” Trinity United Church of Christ in October 1992.
As Barack Obama continued with his community activism, organizing programs such as Project Vote, Michelle Obama worked at City Hall and worked with communities across Chicago. During this time, she birthed two beautiful daughters and balanced life as a wife and working mom, while helping her husband fashion himself into the man who would win a senate seat, catch the eye of a nation and win two presidential campaigns.
After six years in the White House, while some say her embattled husband struggles to find his voice, purpose and position regarding the burgeoning domestic and foreign policy issues, Michelle Obama has maintained her status with the people. Yet, some demand that she be more forceful and ask her husband to courageously take positions on institutionalized racism at home and abroad, and on the fierce recolonization all over the African Diaspora.
Slevin, a noted journalist whose writings have delved into the Iraq and Afghan wars, has written a brief but sometimes smartly detailed observation into some of the history and intricacies that has brought this fiercely determined, highly intelligent, warm-spirited woman to the consciousness of billions worldwide. Oprah Winfrey notwithstanding, Michelle Obama is the most famous woman—and probably the most influential Black woman—in the world. She has the ear of the president of the United States.