Becoming by Michelle Obama

Book – Becoming is a fascinating biography of former first lady Michelle Obama. We get a glimpse of her tight knit, extended family upbringing on Chicago’s south side. Her mother had high expectations of her children and taught them independence. Her father battled MS, yet took pride in his work for the City. He instilled his work ethic in his children and encouraged Michelle to be outspoken and unafraid. She adored her protective and supportive older brother, Craig and eventually followed him to Princeton. She developed a love of music from her great aunt who gave her piano lessons and her grandfather who always filled his house with music. Her childhood and family support helped mold her into an intelligent, independent woman.

Michelle thrived at Harvard Law School. I did not know that Michelle was a first year lawyer at a prestigious firm when she and Barack met. He was a first year law student at Harvard working as a summer associate hired by her firm. Becoming delves into their career paths, marriage and family life. We see just how unglamorous a life in politics really is and her initially strong misgivings. Michelle eventually supported Barack for his Senate bid and eventually the presidency, because she firmly believed in his vision and ability to make a difference. Themes of love and family are primary to her story. Fiercely supportive of her husband and protective of her daughters, she worked hard for them have as normal a life as possible. Though Michelle touches on the obstacles of being an African American woman, she does not dwell on them and moves forward, inspired. She writes, “I’m an ordinary person who found herself on an extraordinary journey.” Becoming is an inspiring story of a woman who has soul and substance.

On November 19th Obama will release Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice to accompany her memoir and help others find their voice.

In Pieces by Sally Field

Book – Many times while reading In Pieces I couldn’t help but think about Sally Field’s famous remark after accepting her second Academy Award “…you like me, right now, you like me!” I was struck by the fact that throughout most of her life, as described it in this book, she didn’t much like herself.

Many of the choices Ms. Field made in her life were because she was lonely, angry, and easily intimidated. She reveals a good deal about herself, which is often unflattering and sometimes disturbing. Her parents divorced when she was very young, her stepfather abused her, and others passed through her life, coming when they needed something from her, then leaving after. While her mother was present during the time Ms. Field was raising her own children, she didn’t step up for Sally when she needed her the most. Bit by bit, the mother-daughter relationship came together. This book is aptly titled in that her life was lived in pieces.

If you’re looking for a quick, “Oh, I want to hear more about Gidget and what Burt Reynolds were like,” feel-good story, this is not the book for you. If you like exploring the forces in peoples’ lives, particularly celebrities, and the choices they make, you might just like In Pieces.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero

Book – Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so bad, so unbelievable, so outrageous, that it goes straight past unwatchable and becomes compelling. In 2003, that movie was The Room, written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. The Room is so uniquely, outrageously bad – and not just bad but also deeply, deeply weird – that you can’t help but wonder about the guy who made it. Fortunately, Wiseau’s co-star, co-producer, and best friend Greg Sestero has written a memoir about his friendship with Tommy and the filming of The Room, and while it doesn’t exactly shed any light on who Tommy Wiseau is or why he felt compelled to make this weirdly compelling, illogical relationship drama of a movie, it’s a delightful trainwreck of a story.

You can now experience The Disaster Artist in a variety of formats – there’s the original book, the audiobook as read by Greg Sestero, and the film starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. While Franco’s Tommy Wiseau impression is impressive, if you really want to experience the full range of weirdness, I recommend the audiobook. Even if you’ve never seen The Room – and I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do – this is a wild ride through one of the most implausible Hollywood productions of our time.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

el deafoBook – After becoming very sick as a child, Cece began to lose her hearing.  El Deafo chronicles Cece’s experiences, from going to school, making friends, and using a hearing aid device.  El Deafo is the perfect mix of fiction and biography.

Inspired by real life experiences, this is a beautifully illustrated story told in graphic novel form.  As someone who really hasn’t read a lot of comic books, I found the artwork to be very refreshing.  The characters reminded me of my favorite childhood tv show, Arthur, with their animal likenesses.  Each character has rabbit-like features, with a pink triangle nose, and tall ears.

One of my favorite things about this book is Cece’s description of her hearing aid, the Phonic Ear.  Young Cece  introduces the device as bulky, unattractive, and heavy; it makes her feel awkward and uncomfortable.

In school, her teacher wears a microphone that is connected to the device.  With her earpieces Cece is able to hear every word her teacher is says, both in the classroom, and  any other place in the building!  With her newfound powers of hearing, Cece discovers her inner superhero, El Deafo.  I adored the honest and charismatic narration of this little girl, and hope you will too.