This winter break it seemed like everyone and their mother (myself included) was reading Michelle Obama’s new memoir, Becoming. It's become a best–seller internationally, topping book charts in eleven countries and being published in 31 languages. It was the best-selling book of 2018, and stops on her book tour have attracted thousands. However, for Obama, it's not about the money or the recognition. Simply put, she said, "If I want anything to come from [Becoming], I want us to share our stories with each other. That's what we're missing, right now...and I think people are hungry for that."
The truth is, the popularity and hype is well-deserved. Obama opens up about a lot in a little over four hundred pages: from the nuances of her upbringing on the South Side of Chicago, to what it was like being a first–generation college student at Princeton, to how her marriage took a back seat during the height of her husband's political career.
Becoming is a beautiful story that not only showcases the strength that it takes to be a woman in political spheres, but also serves as inspiration to any young woman who wants to succeed in this world, whatever her definition of success might be.
If Becoming left you wanting to hear more stories of successful women in politics, here’s a list of books that will inspire you to change the world.
My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
It’s no secret that the notorious RBG has become an American legend, with her popularity soaring in recent years. She’s 85, works out more rigorously than the average college student, and has kept her passion for opera alive for decades, all while upholding the principles of democracy and women’s rights as a Supreme Court justice. My Own Words is the first book she’s written since becoming a justice—a compilation of Ginsburg’s speeches and writings from over the years on a variety of topics from as early as eighth–grade. Ginsburg speaks about gender equality, her connection with Judaism, the US Constitution, the inner workings of government and more. As the title suggests, we hear about who Ginsburg is from her own perspective—the book breaks down the often mythologized narrative surrounding her and explains how she sees herself as a bi–partisan and level–headed public servant after years of being a devoted mother and wife and an intellectually–curious human.
The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris isn’t just busy working on her newly declared run for presidency in 2020—she also just released a book called The Truths We Hold: An American Journey. In the book, she details her beginnings as the daughter of immigrants living in California developing a passion for social justice, her time as San Francisco’s District Attorney, California’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, and eventually, a United States Senator while incorporating her unique experiences in these positions as a woman of color. She details her point of view on complex political issues like immigration, national security, and the economy and provides wisdom on how Americans can come together and achieve unity. While critics disagree on the quality of the book, what they can all agree on is the fact that this book a prescient read for any political junkie who wants an idea of what to expect from Harris' campaign platform..
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
In What Happened, readers get to see what the 2016 presidential campaign, election, and aftermath was like through the Democratic nominee’s eyes. In her account, Clinton discusses the reasons she lost the 2016 presidential election, some of which include sexism, former FBI director James Comey's reopening of an investigation into her emails a mere two weeks before Election Day, Trump’s divisive campaign strategy that encouraged extreme partisanship, and more. But it’s not just a rehashing of the past or a way for Clinton to reopen old wounds. It’s a poignant portrait of what it was really like for Clinton to be the first female presidential candidate nominated by a major party. And then, what it was like to realize she would not become the first female president in 2017. What Happened combines the personal and the political in what ends up being a complex look at Clinton’s unique journey to the White House, and it's a story of what happens when being a qualified women isn't always enough. While What Happened is not a tale of triumph, it isn't one of failure either.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography, My Beloved World, chronicles Sotomayor’s rise from living under the poverty line in the Bronx to being the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. One of the few Supreme Court justices to open up about their personal life, Sotomayor doesn’t hold back. She discusses the difficulties of living in government housing projects in the Bronx at a time when gang violence was at an all time high, being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age seven, and losing her alcoholic father at age nine. Nonetheless, Sotomayor emphasizes that her independence from a young age was spurred on by her difficult upbringing and surroundings, motivating her to attend Princeton and Yale, be nominated by President Clinton as a Court of Appeals judge, and eventually become a Supreme Court Justice with a nomination from President Obama.
What truly links all of these powerful and experienced women isn't just their gender or their accomplishments, it's the fact that they defied the odds and challenged deeply–rooted stereotypes in the process of becoming the women they are today. Michelle Obama emphasized the need to hear stories, and hearing those of women from varied backgrounds and upbringings is especially crucial, so why not do it while educating and motivating yourself at the same time?