Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE MEANING OF MICHELLE by Veronica Chambers


16 Writers on the Iconic First Lady and How Her Journey Inspires Our Own

edited by Veronica Chambers

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-250-11496-9
Publisher: St. Martin's

A collection of essays that genuflect before a first lady like no other.

Though many will miss President Barack Obama, this book suggests that Michelle Obama will be missed even more and that her popularity, accomplishments, and sheer presence have bolstered her husband’s. “If he found a way to convince this amazing woman to accept his hand and have his children, he’s exactly the type of man I want to be my president,” explains Damon Young, a columnist and contributing editor for Ebony and one of the few male contributors to a collection dominated by African-American women. He’s not the only one to comment on her “curvy behind,” though he’s the only one who uses that term. Wherever historians end up ranking the Obama presidency, early returns suggest that no first lady has been as beloved and influential since Jackie Kennedy. Michelle has served as “a game changer for Black women, and it turned out all women,” writes editor Chambers, giving her a singular legacy that she is still plenty young enough to extend (as Roxane Gay suggests in her concluding essay). The variety of contributors allows for different perspectives on their common subject—as a fashion icon, a cultural arbiter, the self-proclaimed “mom-in-chief,” partner in a mutual girl crush with Beyoncé, fitness and food advocate, and a wife who supports but does not defer. “The irony is that Michelle Obama makes it look so easy because she is so complicated,” writes Tiffany Dufu. “Simultaneously flawless and imperfect, she brilliantly navigates opposing forces. And in the tension we can all see ourselves.” As Rebecca Carroll suggests, “she represents at least 60 percent of what America will miss most about the Obama presidency.”

While writing about the first lady, most of these perceptive essayists are also writing about themselves and their country, showing the shifts in perception and possibility that she has helped inspire.