Readers of Michelle Obama’s memoir and second book, “Becoming,” would know about the former first lady’s description of her father having multiple sclerosis. In “The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times,” published by Penguin Randomhouse, Michelle Obama picks up the theme again to reveal how the experience of seeing her father made helpless and vulnerable by the disease showed her how life was not under her control. But what it also taught her, she says in the introduction to her book, is that “You fall, you get up, you carry on.”
That seems to be the motto of her new book. In “The Light We Carry,” the former first lady of the United States deals with the issues that have shaped life around the world and in America in the past years, including the COVID pandemic, the influence of white supremacists and the presidency of Donald Trump, followed by the attack on the Capitol by his supporters in January 2021. All those incidents deeply affected her, she says, and prompted her to look for tools to cope with uncertainty.
In fact, that is what “The Light We Carry” intends to be: a book that acts as a companion through the troubled times we face today. (Also Read | Hate how I look ‘all the time, no matter what’: Michelle Obama says in new book)
“What I can offer is a glimpse inside my personal toolbox. This book is meant to show you what I keep there and why, what I use professionally and personally to help me stay balanced and confident, what keeps me moving forward even during times of anxiety and stress,” Obama writes.
Fear of judgement
Michelle Obama is currently on a promotional tour for the book and spoke to talk show host Ellen DeGeneres at the Warner Theater in Washington DC.
Speaking about the coping strategies described in her book, the author said knitting turned out to be one of her favorite activities when she was locked in during the pandemic.
“The interesting thing about knitting and using your hands and making something is that it is meditative,” she said at the Warner Theater, where she kicked off the six-month-long promotional tour. “In many ways, it is like a faith… It’s a thing that shuts your worrying mind and lets your hands take over,” she told DeGeneres.
She also elaborated on her family’s life during the pandemic, saying the Obamas were used to isolation from the eight years they spent at the White House.
Obama also spoke about her ability to overcome hateful comments. “That helped me create a protective layer around my life. I understood that I alone could protect my light,” she said.
She also said she spent too much time during her eight years in the White House weighing how the public would perceive her. “I didn’t wear braids,” she said, explaining how she thought her whole family, as the first Black family to live in the White House, would be judged if she did so. “It would have been, ‘remember when she wore braids? Those are terrorist braids. Those are revolutionary braids.’ So let me keep my hair straight, let’s get healthcare passed,” US media quoted the former first lady as saying.
She also mentioned former President Donald Trump’s election, saying, “It hurt because you wonder — was it a rebuke of the eight years, the sacrifice we made? Was it complacency? What was it?”
Michelle Obama emphasizes that “The Light We Carry” is not a “how-to manual,” rather it is a “series of honest reflections on what life has taught me so far, the levers and hydraulics of how I get myself through.”
She offers new alternatives to the question, “When will all this end?” and emphasizes the need to consider another set of questions: “How do we adapt? How do we get more comfortable, less paralyzed, inside of uncertainty? What tools do we have to sustain ourselves? Where do we find extra pillars of support? How can we create safety and stability for others? And if we work as one, what might we manage to overcome together?”
“The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times” is Michelle Obama’s third book.
The 58-year-old former first lady is a trained lawyer and has written two other books. The first one, called “American Grown” about the produce garden she had planted in the White House, came out in 2009. Her second book, “Becoming,” was written after the Obama family had left the White House and came out in 2018. The memoir has sold more than 17 million copies worldwide.