Even if Michelle Obama’s book isn’t an official pick for your book club and you don’t actually need formal Becoming book club questions, you probably know a gazillion people who have read Michelle Obama’s 2018 memoir Becoming. This book had record-breaking sales numbers and has sold over 10,000,000 copies. In fact, it’s on track to become the most successful memoir ever.
In other words, Becoming is unavoidable. And why would you want to avoid it? Mrs. Obama’s story is inspirational and relatable. She thoughtfully covers issues of racism, sexism, identity, motherhood, and of course politics. Her story is one that is easy to connect with, and yet at the same time her journey is uniquely hers. As an added bonus, if you get the audiobook (as I did) Michelle Obama reads it herself. Basically, if you haven’t read this book, do yourself a favor and read it.
So whether you’re meeting up with your book club to discuss Michelle Obama’s Becoming or if you’re just trying to strike up a conversation about this popular book with your friends, here are some Becoming book club questions to get the conversation going.
Becoming Book Club Questions
- Michelle Obama’s memoir is divided into three sections: Becoming Me, Becoming Us, and Becoming More. How does dividing her story in this way help shape the narrative? And is it effective?
- Michelle Obama writes, “Now I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” How many different things has Michelle Obama “become,” and how has each of these “becomings” changed her and the way she sees the world?
- Michelle’s upbringing in the South Side of Chicago is a significant part of her story. What does this particular place signify to her, and how did it shape her identity? How does any childhood hometown affect identity?
- One of the most noteworthy (pardon the pun) stories from Michelle Obama’s childhood is her first piano recital. After practicing on a worn down piano with a chipped key, Michelle finds it difficult to remember what to play on a pristine piano. Obama writes that in this moment, “disparities of the world had just quietly shown themselves to me for the first time.” What about this moment was so important to her? How do you think her awareness of privilege in this moment, and throughout the memoir, affected her outlook on life?
- Of her parents, Michelle Obama says that they treated her and her brother Craig like adults, starting at a very young age. This meant taking Michelle and Craig’s questions and concerns seriously and answering them honestly (even questions about sex, drugs, and racism). Do you think this is an effective way of parenting, or is there something to be said for shielding children from some parts of life?
- This book deals with shifts in identity quite frequently. One of Michelle Obama’s first shifts in how she saw herself and understood the way others saw her was when she left Chicago to attend school at Princeton. How did this change in her life affect the way she saw herself and others? How do you feel about the way Michelle Obama responded to those changes?
- Obviously, a significant moment in the memoir is when Michelle Obama meets her future husband (and future president) Barack Obama. What did you think of her first impressions of Obama? How did her opinions of him change as they got to know each other? What did you learn about their relationship from this memoir that you didn’t know before?
- Throughout the novel, Michelle Obama covers difficult topics honestly and effectively. One of the most difficult topics for anyone to cover is grief. Everyone’s grief is different, and it can be hard to articulate those feelings. Obama writes, “It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful—a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids—and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way.” Do you identify with this assessment of grief? Or have your experiences been different?
- Another difficult topic Michelle Obama covers frankly is her personal struggles with infertility and motherhood. How did her journey to motherhood affect her identity, her priorities, and her goals?
- Were you at all surprised by Michelle Obama’s reaction to her husband running for president? What do you think about Michelle Obama’s stance on her husband’s politics and his political career in general? Do you think her opinions changed at all during the course of Obama’s presidency, or do they generally seem to be the same?
- Michelle Obama has had to contend with racism her entire life. But the racism she faced became a lot more public and arguable more heated when Obama began running for president. From the “terrorist fist jab” comments to being referred to as “Obama’s Baby Mama,” Michelle Obama has had to deal with a lot of racist remarks mixed in with the usual public scrutiny that most people (especially women) in the public eye receive. Were you surprised by any of the criticisms launched at Michelle Obama, racist or otherwise? How do you feel about the way Michelle Obama handles these remarks?
- Towards the end of the book, Michelle Obama reflects on leaving the White House and handing it over to Donald Trump. What are Obama’s opinions about the Donald Trump presidency? Do you agree or disagree with her stance?
- In the epilogue, Michelle Obama writes, “I’ve never been a fan of politics, and my experience over the last ten years has done little to change that.” It’s clear throughout the book that this is Michelle Obama’s opinion on politics. Were you surprised by this at all? Why do you think she feels this way?
- One of the words most often used to describe this memoir is “inspirational.” Do you think that is a fair description? What about Michelle Obama’s story was particularly inspirational to you?
For more on Michelle Obama’s Becoming, here are some of the most powerful quotes from the memoir. Or if you’ve finished Becoming and want something else, try these six books recommended by Michelle Obama.
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