Michelle: A Biography By Liza Mundy

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Reviewed by Larry Cox

There is simply no middle ground when it comes to the diverse opinions that Americans have about Michelle Obama. Her detractors see her as an elitist — an ambitious, upper-income black clothes horse with radical, deep-rooted resentments despite her obvious successes. Her supporters celebrate her as a plain-speaking career woman, stylish, intelligent, grounded and a nurturing mother and wife. A new book suggests that the truth might lie somewhere in between.

Liza Mundy, a staff writer at the Washington Post, wrote her biography of the new first lady shortly before November’s general election. Although Mrs. Obama did not cooperate for the book, Mundy did interview her along with many of the people who know her best. The result is a fairly balanced portrait of Michelle Obama, a woman who credits her father as being one of the most profound influences on her life, praises her mother for understanding the value of education, and truly loves her husband, a man she accepts as being driven and “burning the candles at both ends.”

This highly readable book counters much of the misinformation about her and fills in many of the gaps in a story that many of us think we know but don’t. For example, despite the fact that Michelle Obama is skeptical of politics, especially Chicago politics, she has somehow been able to almost seamlessly blend into the national political scene. Mundy believes that as a wife, mother, community activist and career woman, she has succeeded in each and done an admirable, even remarkable job.

This is a classic American story. The ideals that Michelle Obama shares with her husband have their roots in her working-class upbringing on Chicago’s South Side. Coming of age during the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s, Michelle was both tempered and strengthened by the changing times. She is her own person, comfortable in her skin, and will become one of more interesting occupants of the White House.

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