Michelle Obama
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Chapter 1

Obama begins the book by providing the readers with a glance of her early life as an African American woman growing up in Chicago. She was raised in a brick bungalow belonging to Robbie, her mother's aunt, and her husband. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination set off riots across the nation including in Chicago (Obama 21). Nonetheless, Michelle Obama states that she was just a child and barely understood what was going on in her neighborhood during that time. Her family meant everything to her; they were the core of everything. Obama’s mother taught her how to read early in her life, accompanying her to the public library while her father worked on a daily basis as a city laborer. Despite their parents’ busy schedule, Obama writes that her father always showed her brother Craig and her what it meant to love art and jazz. Prior to relocating to Robbie’s apartment, Michelle and her family lived in Parkway Gardens, which were affordable housing projects, comprised of modern apartment buildings. Due to increased gang violence and exceptional poverty, the area became one of the most dangerous places to live in the city.

At the age of four, Michelle decided to learn the piano. Obama informs the readers that music runs in her family history, which enabled her to find playing the piano easy (Obama 23). She was convinced that she “already had learned piano, in fact, through straight-up osmosis” from the hours spent listening to other children practicing their songs at Robbie’s apartment (23). She states that her first day in Robbie’s piano lesson started with a reprimanding from Robbie, commanding her to “find middle C” (23). However, once she learned to place her thumb on middle C, she proved to be talented and even went ahead to work on her own progress as a musician. Although this infuriated Robbie, Michelle states that she was “lawyerly” (25) and thus, never gave up despite getting into an intense argument with Robbie. Michele also brings into light her father's early diagnosis with multiple sclerosis, a condition that nobody knew much about. Obama states that Robbie’s recital at Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago made her realize the how much disparity there is in the world. The fact was that she was “never used to flawless” (28) as her experience of the piano emanated completely from Robbie’s music room.  She states, “I had no clue where to place my hands” (28), and for the first in her life Michelle felt that the disparities of the world had revealed themselves to her.



The author seems to take the reader on a tour of her childhood life in Chicago. She informs the readers about the United States’ political status at the end of the 1960s. With the Kennedys dead and Martin Luther King Jr being assassinated, the nation was in chaos. White families began migrated to the suburbs on the back of a promise of a better life, which in turn lead to increased racial segregation.

In this chapter, Obama reveals the levels of racial segregation and disparities between the Chicago’s downtown and its south side and describes how she consciously observed the segregated housing projects and the migration of white families to the suburbs. Evidently, the author states that her grandfather Shields, hated not only the police but also mistrusted the whites. This led to Shield telling his children frightening stories to his children about what happens to black children that went into the wrong neighborhood. The worlds disparities are also evident during Robbie’s piano recital at Roosevelt University. Obama states that she had never seen a perfect piano in her life, since her experience of the piano emanated from Robbie’s squat little music room. The author uses her story in this chapter to introduce the readers to the complexity and richness of African American history, something that has hardly reached the international audience.

Have study documents to share about Becoming? Upload them to earn free Studypool credits!