My sister kindly gave me Becoming by Michelle Obama as a Christmas present, and I finished reading it on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Unsurprisingly, it really got me thinking…
Why do books matter?
On a date when America celebrates justice, equality, and the right of freedom for all, here I was, reading a book that seemed perfectly timely. I was curious to learn about Michelle Obama’s journey, her childhood, and the personal struggles and choices that led to her becoming First Lady. But most of all, I was intrigued to discover what a First Lady, mother, lawyer, activist, and fashion icon for many as well, had to say about all these things.
Now this is why books are so fascinating. A book, in this case, Michelle Obama’s Becoming, is an invitation to reflection.
Leaving political preferences and affiliations aside—I am as equally off put by the red and blue dichotomy as Michelle Obama claims to be—a book allows its author to whole-heartedly pour out their character and thoughts, whatever those may be. And most importantly, it kicks the ball back into the reader’s court, so that they can process them within the boundaries of their own context and stories, interpreting the words, and putting new content back out, re-assembled in a completely different way. It is a pull and push, or give and take dynamic that only the format of a book could permit.
A book opens the door to discussion.
And whether I agree or disagree with Michelle Obama’s stances on gender, race, education, or inequality, no longer matters. But one thing is for sure; the issues are on the table, and they force for me to reckon with them once I am done with the last page.
Reading Becoming made me realize one thing above others: books are irreplaceable.
They are a unique expression, a window into someone else’s perspective. And if you haven’t read it yet but are planning to, I don’t want to spoil it, but maybe that is what Michelle Obama is talking about in the epilogue when she says: “Let’s invite one another in.”
Adriana Ferreira is the Social Media Coordinator at Cornell University Press. When she was first interviewed for the job, she was reading The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and today, she is helping celebrate CUP’s 150th anniversary by putting her own thoughts on “paper” about why books matter.