Michelle Obama Announces A New Memoir Her Publisher Calls ‘Unusually Intimate’

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama announced the title of her hotly anticipated first memoir, Becoming, and its Nov. 13 release date—when it will be simultaneously published in 24 languages worldwide—in a statement to PEOPLE on Sunday. “Writing Becoming has been a deeply personal experience,” Obama says. “It has allowed me, for the very first time, the space to honestly reflect on the unexpected trajectory of my life … how a little girl from the South Side of Chicago found her voice and developed the strength to use it to empower others.”

The yet-unreleased book jacket portrait of the author, whose first book, the 2012 American Grown focused on her White House kitchen garden and nutrition initiatives as first lady, was taken by celebrity portrait photographer Miller Mobley, who gave People an exclusive preview from one of his shoots with Obama, 54.


Michelle Obama photographed by Miller Mobley

In a statement from Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House, the publisher of Obama’s upcoming book suggests that it will stretch the confines of a traditional former first-lady memoir the same way Obama’s official portrait for the Smithsonian did. “Becoming is an unusually intimate reckoning from a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same,” the publisher said.

Obama, whose husband, former president Barack Obama is writing his presidential memoir (for an expected 2019 release), will promote Becoming on a U.S. and international book tour, the publisher said, adding that 1 million books will be donated in the Obamas’ name to the educational nonprofit program called First Book.

In her limited number of public appearances since leaving the White House, Obama has given some hints about the book she’s been writing, saying primarily that she hopes it will be inspirational.

“My parents weren’t wealthy,” Obama said during a talk last November, according to Hartford Courant. “They weren’t fancy folks. But we had a good childhood, living in a little, bitty apartment.”

She added, “What girls and young people need… is consistent love and support and the belief of somebody out there that they’re worthy. I had that.”

Obama touched on her memoir in February at a talk in Indianapolis, Ind., and explained that her experiences growing up have become even more profound now that she’s older. She admitted that many women of color grow up with “doubts in their heads,” according to The Daily News.

Michelle Obama and her official White House portrait
Olivier Douliery/ABACA USA/INSTARimages.com

“There are people who decide or are told growing up not to like you,” she said. “What you have to do is practice pushing through it. You have to practice achieving through other people’s low expectations of you.”

Beyond inspirational stories, readers can also expect insight into her time at the White House.

“When you’re in it, you don’t have a moment, a second, to think,” Obama said during a talk last September, according to CNN.com. “This is the first time in eight years, probably 10 years, that I’ll have a chance to think back on what it all meant.”

She explained that her thoughts on the election are some of the things she has “rolling around in [her] head” as she writes the book. And while the former first lady has been careful not to directly criticize the current president in the past year, she did discuss the election at the event.

Michelle Obama Talks Life After the White House – and Why Barack Is Mad About Their New Home

“Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” she said.

Even though the book won’t come out for months, the former first lady’s memoir has already rocked the publishing industry. Last year, the news broke that the Obamas landed a two-memoir book deal with Crown, a Penguin Random House imprint, reportedly worth at least $60 million — a stunning amount.

But they won’t keep most of the proceeds. According to The Associated Press, the Obamas plan to donate a “significant portion” of their earnings to charity, including to the Obama Foundation. And chances are high that the books will be successful.

Michelle Obama and Prince Harry speak to students at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, Ill.
Christopher Dilts/The Obama Foundation

Barack Obama proved his merit as a writer with Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, which were bestsellers even before he became president. Historically, first ladies also produce reliable bestsellers.

According to The Washington Post, every first lady memoir published in the 20th and 21st centuries have made best-seller lists. Many, such as the memoirs of Lady Bird Johnson, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush, “outsold their husbands.”

While Michelle Obama may not command the same amount as Barack Obama, she could make history in terms of earnings for first lady memoirs. Laura Bush made a reported $1.6 million advance with Spoken From the Heart and Hillary Clinton made $8 million for Living History. Michelle Obama could make substantially more.

Michelle and Barack Obama

Writing isn’t the only activity that has kept Obama busy during her first year post-White House. Beyond giving talks in which she spread words of inspiration and hope, she’s been busy traveling and working with her husband on the Obama Foundation. The couple has also focused on family. The Obamas have relocated to a house in Washington, D.C. until their daughter, Sasha, finishes high school and moved their older daughter, Malia, to Cambridge, where she is a freshman at Harvard.

“What I learned over eight years is that home is where we make it,” Obama told Ellen DeGeneres in her first TV interview since her husband left office. “And we were in the White House for eight years, but it wasn’t the house. It was us in it. It was our values and our love for each other. And we just moved that to another house.”

The Obamas
Pete Souza/The White House via Getty

Just as she’s worked on instilling good values in her daughters, Michelle Obama also wants to promote positive social change. And, no, she doesn’t want to do that by running for president (despite the protests from her many fans).

“The thing that we have to remember, the thing I learned in the eight years that I was in the White House, was that what we do every day in our lives, the good things that we do every day — and we know we do it — we show empathy, we care for each other. We do have a lot in common,” Obama said after Ellen DeGeneres asked for advice about how to cope in this “very scary” world. “That’s what it means to lead with hope and not fear. And that’s all we have, is hope.”