Michelle: A Biography
by Liza Mundy

Simon & Schuster, 2008. ISBN 1-4165-9943-6.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 10/24/2008

Nonfiction: Biography; Nonfiction: History/Current Events

A hard-working, ambitious man and an equally ambitious, hard-working stay-at-home wife share dreams of a better life for their children. This dream fuels their days until it comes true.

It is a story that all Americans know, and one that many have lived. In the 1960s and 1970s this story unfolded for many Chicago families, including Fraser and Marian Robinson and their children, Craig and Michelle. Both children studied hard and gained admission to Princeton. After his graduation, Craig worked on Wall Street and then followed his heart to be a college basketball coach. He's now at head coach at Oregon State University. Michelle continued her studies at Harvard Law School. She worked for a major law firm in hometown Chicago where she met her own true love. Today, we know her as Michelle Obama. Her mother and daddy's dreams have come true.

Using her own interview with Michelle Obama, family members and over a hundred others, as well as public documents and other published material, journalist Liza Mundy offers the story of a three-dimensional, living, breathing, and feeling individual who differs from the flat characterizations that accompany public life. (Note: while Mundy had an early interview with Obama, after the announcement of this project, the Obama campaign shut down communications. This is not a puff piece.)

The private lives of public figures are fascinating. This is no exception, but there is more. Michelle Obama has shared the hard decisions, the frustrations, compromises and the flat-out exhaustions that face many women who maintain a professional life while keeping their commitments to their marriages and their families. It has not been easy but it has been satisfying. Regardless of the outcome of the election (this review is being written in October, 2008) or the political persuasion of the reader, Michelle Obama's is a story worth reading. Young women and students, especially, will find both inspiration and a bit of a warning. We all will profit by learning more about this extraordinary human.

Liza Mundy is a staff writer at the Washington Post and a contributor to Slate and several other publications. She is also the author of Everything Conceivable, winner of the Science in Society Award. She lives with her family in Virginia. Visit her website.

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