Michelle Obama’s new book aims to be a “Light” in dark times.
“The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times” (Crown, 336 pp., out now), is a follow-up to Obama’s memoir “Becoming,” which was named USA TODAY’s No. 1 bestselling book of 2018. Her new book is more of a self-help guide compared to the narrative reflection of “Becoming.”
But there are still plenty of interesting personal anecdotes, both from the time periods covered in “Becoming” and since. The former first lady provides a glimpse into what quarantine life was like for her family of four living in D.C., as well as daughters Sasha and Malia moving into a Los Angeles apartment together last year.
“Sasha attempted to fix us a couple of weak martinis – Wait, you know how to make martinis? – and served them in water glasses, first laying down a couple of newly purchased coasters so that we wouldn’t mark up their brand-new coffee table with our drinks,” Obama writes of her and Barack’s first visit to their daughters’ new place, lovingly roasting her 20-something kids for learning about taking care of their home for the first time.
Anecdotes like these serve a broader purpose in “Light”: To offer wisdom about big life topics, the processes “of finding strength and light within yourself,” building “relationships with others and our notions of home” and “how we may better own, protect and strengthen our light, especially during challenging times,” she writes. Though Obama makes it clear she still struggles with plenty of self-doubt and doesn’t have all the answers, she provides a pretty thorough roadmap to living a fuller, kinder, better life.
The Obamas have been open about their experiences with couples counseling, but in her book Obama now goes into greater detail about how they’ve been able to mend and strengthen their relationship through difficult times.
“We’ve had to learn our way through it,” she writes. “We’ve had to practice responding to each other in ways that take into account both of our histories, our different needs and ways of being. Barack has figured out how to give me more space and time to cool off and process my emotions slowly, knowing that I was raised with that sort of space and time. I have likewise learned to become more efficient and less hurtful while doing that processing. And I try not to let a problem sit too long, knowing that he was raised not to let things fester.”
What was initially meant to be a more generalized self-help book born out of conversations from her “Becoming” tour became an even more timely concept during the pandemic and political unrest of the last few years. Obama writes of hoping the book can serve as a remedy to the paralyzing realization that many have had after these tumultuous years: Life is fragile and nothing is guaranteed.
“It may be a while before we find our footing again,” she writes. “The losses will reverberate for years to come. We will get shaken and shaken again. The world will remain both beautiful and broken. The uncertainties aren’t going away.”
Through speaking to fans and readers on her “Becoming” tour, Obama has seen firsthand how much vocalizing her stories can heal someone who needs to know their experiences are not uncommon.
“When I looked into those audiences, I saw something that confirmed what I knew to be true about my country and about the world more generally,” she writes. “I saw a colorful crowd, full of differences and better for it. … I sincerely believe that many of those people had turned up for reasons that stretched well past me or my book. My feeling was they’d shown up at least in part to feel less alone in the world, to locate some lost sense of belonging.”
Over the course of several chapters, Obama highlights times when she did feel alone in the world in the hopes others would see their own struggles in her experiences and realize there is hope for a better future. She writes of the pressures of being a major “first” and “only” for the country, the frustration of being labeled an “angry Black woman,” the isolation of being the only person who looked like her in so many rooms, and why all of that makes her famous “when they go low, we go high” slogan all the more pertinent.
“A motto stays hollow if we only repeat it and put it on products we can sell on Etsy,” she writes. “We need to embody it, pour ourselves into it — pour our frustration and hurt into it, even. When we lift the barbell, we get our results.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com