Michelle Obama
Contributed by Eleanor Sherer
Chapter 4

Michelle Obama narrates her mother’s role in her family as well as her [Michelle] teenage years candidly. Michelle’s mother was unemployed, and this enabled the author to go home for lunch with her friends. This formed a habit in Michelle’s life of “keeping a close and high-spirited council of girlfriends” which the author refers to as “safe harbor of female wisdom” (Obama 45). Obama’s group could share different opinions and stories that had happened during these meetings, with tales ranging from assignments they considered as useless, to any form of conflict they had with their teachers.

Obama also informs her readers about the economic and racial sorting in the South Shore neighborhood in the 1970’s making the student population grow poorer and less diverse each year. Michelle states that in her seventh grade, the ChicagoDefender, “a weekly newspaper that was popular with African American readers” claimed that Bryn Mawr school was a “run-down slum” led by “ghetto mentality” (Obama 45-46). Nonetheless, Dr. Lavizo, the school principal, with the help of active parents such as Michelle's mother, formulated a strategy aimed at helping children to learn faster based on their capability. Due to her natural ability and work ethic, Michelle was among the beneficiaries (Obama 46).

Michelle lived in a quintessentially African American family unit characterized by parental tenderness and guidance. The author asserts that although they lived on a limited budget, her mother always found ways of compensating, such as dying her hair, crocheting dollies for tabletops, and sewing most of Michelle’s clothes (Obama 47). The author states that her mother was not only slow to judge but also even-keeled (Obama 48) and that her mother’s parenting mindset was brilliant and almost unsurmountable to emulate. Her [Michelle’s] mother kept their confined bungalow so in order, that years later, Michele would recall the scent of “Pine-Sol and automatically feel better about life” (Obama 47).

Turning 14 made Michelle feel half grown-up or even “as two-thirds of a grown-up” (Obama 49). She identified herself with the Gore sisters, Pam, and Diane, her best friends and idols. At this age, Michelle not only started her period but also her first kiss from Ronnell, a boy that sang in the Chicago Children’s Choir (Obama 50).


The author uses her story to describe the role of parenting and family. Parental guidance plays a vital role in the growth and development of a child. This chapter shows parents that they should not only take part in providing for their children but also engage in their children’s lives by providing support, love, and guidance. Parents should have balance and control when bringing up their children. They should know when to meddle, learn their mood changed and most importantly, they should raise their kids not as babies but as adults. In turn, this enables their children to make reasonable decisions. Using her story, the author appears to encourage parents to let their kids know what they [parents] can and cannot condone, as well as to have open communication with their kids. Without a doubt, open communication encourages children to open up, thereby providing a parent a chance to guide their child in the right direction. The author’s nurturing family helped her become the person she is today. Therefore, Michelle Obama seems to uphold that supporting children, instilling moral values, and bringing them up in a nurturing family helps in guiding their upward journey.

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