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Michelle Obama: A Life, by Peter Slevin (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, 2015, 418 pages).

Book Review by Dennis Moore

“A deeply informed portrait of the first lady and her native Chicago…. Her larger story, told so powerfully in Slevin’s biography, which suggests she will forever be a force with which to be reckoned.” – Chicago Tribune

March 11, 2019 (San Diego) - Peter Slevin, who has written extensively about Barack and Michelle Obama, from his vantage point of being on the staff of The Washington Post, before joining Northwestern University’s School of Journalism, where he is currently an associate professor, has written a uniquely American story of a woman from the Southside of Chicago that changed the course of prior inhabitants of the White House; Michelle Obama: A Life.

Coming at a time right after Black History Month, this is the inspiring story of Michelle Obama, a modern American icon. Michelle Obama is actually the personification of what Black History Month is all about. The first book to weave together Michelle’s remarkable life and times. Peter Slevin’s biography of the first lady unfurls with disciplined reporting and a storyteller’s eye for detail. Slevin follows Michelle to the White House from her working-class childhood on Chicago’s largely segregated South Side. He illuminates her tribulations at Princeton University and Harvard Law School during the racially charged 1980s and the dilemmas she faced in Chicago while building a high-powered career, raising a family, and helping a young community organizer named Barack Obama become president of the United States.

From the lessons she learned in Chicago to the messages she shares as one of the most recognizable women in the world, the story of this first lady is the story of America. Michelle Obama: A Life is a fresh and compelling view of a woman of unique achievement and purpose.

This book by Slevin gives us a rare insight into a woman that comes from humble beginnings, to become a fixture in American politics that transcends all that we have previously known about those described as the “First Lady” of the United States.

Slevin weaves a powerful and moving story of Michelle Obama, and makes it clear that it was her that facilitated the rise of Barack Obama being the first black president of the United States, as unlikely as it might have seemed. If ever there was a truism in “Behind every good man is a strong woman”, it certainly applies in Michelle Obama: A Life.

The author traces the life of Michelle Obama and her ancestors through their migration from various parts of the south, such as South Carolina, to the promise of a better life in Chicago. Slevin explores the many generations of the “Robinson” family, which would later evolve into the “Obama” family, and ultimately residents of the White House.

The irony of this book, is the fact that this writer actually worked in the same “Daley” administration in Chicago at the very same time that Michelle Obama did, and knew of and traveled in similar circles in Chicago as she did, such as “Rainbow Beach” and the “Apostolic Church of God” mentioned in Slevin’s well researched and documented book. When he writes of White House advisor Valerie Jarrett or Mayor Harold Washington, this writer recalls fond memories and encounters with.

Having walked down the same hallways at City Hall as Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett did countless times, while in the employment of the “Daley” administration, this insightful book by Slevin resonates with me in so many profound ways.

Slevin points out in Michelle Obama: A Life, that it was actually Valerie Jarrett that offered Michelle Obama a job in the mayor’s office on the spot, after being referred to her by Susan Sher, a senior attorney for Mayor Richard M. Daley, elected two year’s earlier to his father’s old job.

It is ironic that Valerie Jarrett is scheduled to discuss her new memoir; Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward at the Los Angeles Times 24th annual Festival of Books at USC to be held on April 13 and 14, 2019. Perhaps Jarrett will share additional insight into this remarkable woman, Michelle Obama. I, for one, plan to attend this event!

Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego that has partnered with the East County Magazine. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics. Mr. Moore can be contacted at or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.

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Thank you, Dennis Moore

I appreciate your response to my post. To add to Mrs. Obama's long list of accomplishments, she demonstrated that she is also a powerful orator as witnessed at the DNC a few nights ago. I do hope she can put these tumultuous days into perspective as we all wish for better times to come.

"Southside With You" movie about Barack and Michelle Obama

I watched a fantastic movie just today about the love story about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson Obama, starting with Barack being a community organizer in the Altgeld Gardens area of the Southside. This movie resonated with me for so many reasons, as I once lived in Chicago and worked in the same Daley Administration as Michelle Obama. In this movie there are many scenic views that brings back memories. See attached description of the movie here.

Hi Dennis...

Thank you so much for your review of Peter Slevin's "Michelle Obama, a Life", his biography of the incomparable former First Lady. I am sure I will enjoy it all the more after reading your in-depth review of it. Keep the good work coming!

Michelle Obama opens up about her "Low-Grade Depression"

You are so very welcome K.B., but a recent revelation by former First Lady Michelle Obama puts Peter Slevin's book about Michelle in perspective. This past Thursday the "Becoming" author opened up about her "Low-Grade Depression." In the latest episode of her new podcast, "The Michelle Obama Podcast", Michelle spoke with NPR host Michele Norris about the "emotional highs and lows" of the past several months. She stated: "Spiritually, these are not fulfilling times, so I know that I am dealing with some form of low-grade depression." The former First Lady further stated: "Those emotions are not just because of the quarantine, but because of the racial strife amid protests sparked by George Floyd's death and that just seeing [Donald Trump's] administration, watching the hypocrisy of it day-in and day-out, is dispiriting."

Obama Family

Dennis Moore, The review on Michele Obama was written with the view of many Americans as a black woman Im proud to say that she is truly a prime example of how you should support and stand by your man. Also holding on to your beliefs and strength within. Being the First Lady of this U.S. and African American well educated beautiful and a mom You covered it all. Thanks Mobile Notary

"Finding My Voice" by Valerie Jarrett

It is ironic and insightful that this past week, I conducted a phone interview with President Obama's White House advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is referenced in subject book review. This phone interview was in consideration of my upcoming review of her book; "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward". Valerie greeted me warmly, as is typical of this classy lady, as we used to work in the same "Daley" Administration more than 30 years ago.

Michelle Obama

I enjoyed this great review on this book about Michelle Obama. I love the Obama family and enjoy reading anything concerning them. How refreshing that the entire family, and the life of said family, has no scandal or misdeeds to report. People used to refer the the Kennedy's as "Camelot," but I think "Camelot" is a good description of the Obamas. Loved the review. Mr. Moore, you did it again. Great job!

Michelle Obama

Thank you Carole for your comments on my review of this book about Michelle Obama. It was certainly my pleasure and honor for writing the review, especially considering that Michelle and I both worked for the same Daley administration in Chicago.