Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope

By: Elizabeth Lightfoot

Star Rating:



Spoiler Disclaimer


Michelle Obama is a wife, mother and career woman. Her life had a humble beginning on the South Side of Chicago, but even if the Robinson family wasn't wealthy, they had plenty of love and strong family bonds. Academics were important to Michelle who worked hard in school and eventually was admitted to Princeton and later Harvard Law School. Her law career was on the fast track when she met and later married Barack Obama, and then realized that she would rather dedicate her life to public service. When her husband decided to make his now famous run for President of the United States, Michelle found herself thrust into the spotlight where everything from her college thesis to what she was wearing became fodder for gossip and the opinions of political pundits. With dignity and poise, Michelle showed that she was Barack's "rock", and "the closer" on the campaign trail, while still maintaining a strong, healthy home environment for their two daughters. Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope takes the reader through the early years of Michelle's life and on through the presidential campaign and her husband's historic win, which made her the first African-American First Lady.


Ever since now-President Obama burst onto the national political scene several years ago, I have been closely following his career. I can't recall exactly when I first saw his wife, Michelle, but right from the start, she impressed me as being a confident, eloquent, poised lady who was also a great wife, mother and career woman. When I saw Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope in the book section of our local grocery/department store chain, I thought it looked like a good book to read for me to gain more information and insights into the woman I had come to admire. Unfortunately, the book didn't turn out to be quite what I had expected, nor as good as I had hoped.

By her own admission, the author wrote the book rather hurriedly. Because her publisher was eager to release the book in e-book format in time for the peak of the presidential campaign season, they only allowed her a couple of months from start to finish to write it. Only a few more days were allowed after the election for editing to reflect those results, before the print version was released. In my opinion, there were places where the rush showed, particularly in the repetition. I have no problem with an author reiterating something for the sake of emphasis, but I seemed to keep seeing some of the same quotes and information over and over, not only between chapters, but sometime within the same chapter. Elizabeth Lightfoot has worked as a newspaper and magazine columnist, but from what I can tell, this was her first book. In my opinion, each chapter of the book read more like a newspaper or magazine article than a section from a biographical tome. The author also had a tendency to editorialize quite a bit, frequently inserting her own reflections and opinions which didn't particularly seem appropriate for a biography. These types of comments fit the preface quite well which brought back some fond memories of my own from the campaign season, some of which mirrored the author's experiences. However, placing personal asides into the narrative of the book, to my way of thinking, caused it to become something entirely different, a book that was part biography of Michelle Obama and part memoir of the author's experiences.

In all honesty, Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope seemed to be less about Michelle Obama and more about the campaign season in general. Granted the first few chapters focus mainly on Michelle and her background, but even during those sections, Ms. Lightfoot seemed to veer off onto rabbit trials discussing things that were somewhat related to Mrs. Obama (eg. the history of blacks at Princeton), but were not things that she had directly influenced. As the book progressed, the chapters seemed to be less and less about Michelle herself, and more about the presidential campaign. There were some of these chapters where I think Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and John and Cindy McCain received as many mentions as Mrs. Obama. The author does engage in some discourse on how Michelle Obama affected, and was affected by, the campaign, but there just wasn't enough about the woman herself to suit me. I did enjoy the chapter on motherhood and family life, probably because this is the area in which I relate to Michelle the most. On the flip side, the chapter on fashion wasn't quite my cup of tea. While I do think that Mrs. Obama always looks beautiful and well put together, I'm simply more interested in a person's personality than what they wear. The last 25 pages or so contain extensive bibliographical notes on the author's sources for the book, and a complete index.

Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't a great one either. It didn't really give me the kind of insights into her character that I was hoping for, which is probably understandable given that the author was not able to interview Michelle personally. Most of the information that was shared were things that I already knew about Mrs. Obama. In fact, I think I've gotten a better feel for the woman herself through my own casual "research" and watching interviews with her. This book might be useful to anyone who knows little or nothing about Michelle Obama (or anyone who might have been living in a cave during the 2008 presidential campaign season ;-)), but those readers like myself, who have been following the Obamas closely for years, will probably not learn anything new here.


Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope Page @ Google Books