Season of Restoration and Renewal

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I take things to heart. I always have. So when in early childhood I was told in catechism classes that Jesus died for my sins, and that every sin I committed actually enforced the strength of the hammers nailing him to the cross, I took it to heart.

I grew up feeling guilty and shameful and dirty. I learned to beg God for forgiveness rather than to pray. I learned to be afraid of sudden lightning bolts striking me down for some blasphemy. I learned to feel responsible for every bad thing that had ever happened in the world. I could not watch “Jesus” movies (Barabbas, The Greatest Story Ever Told, King of Kings) without feeling that I was one of the crowd calling for His death.

I became very neurotic.

Thank God for mentors and spiritual authors and therapists who helped me start to emerge from that sick state. Thank God for the mentors (Sue, Dick, Phyllis, Gus, Charlie, Rick) who gave me the gift of reading Paul’s epistles without feminist anger. Thank God for Allan and John who introduced me to Martin Luther. Thank God for Rabbi Elias, who showed me the face of righteousness.

Thank God for Julian of Norwich and Bishop NT Wright and Hildegard of Bingen and Henry Nouwen and Howard Thurman and Richard Rohr who taught me to dare to think of Jesus the Christ and God outside of the box.

Thank God for Monroe Crossing and Voces and John Rutter and Francois Poulenc and Morton Lauridsen and Vaughan Williams and Marty Hagen and John Donne and George Herbert who gave me a way to sing my prayers of praise.

Thank God for Wynken and Blynken and Greta and Pym and Reepicheep and Columbine and Onyx and Maggie May and all the other pets who taught me how to love and be loved unconditionally.

Thank God for Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King Jr. and Fred Shuttleworth and Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin and Fannie Lou Hamer and Septima Clark and John Cone and John Lewis and Bryan Stevenson and William Barber and all the other freedom fighters who taught me how to armor myself with faith to resist darkness in the world.

I’m still a bit neurotic. That kind of imprinting at such a young age doesn’t ever wholly leave. But now that I know that the world, and me with it, is restored every day, I can let go of teachings that kept me imprisoned rather than liberated, which is what I believe faith is meant to do.

I went to a Shabbat service a couple of weeks ago at a reformed Judaism congregation. The following prayer was read; it touched me so deeply that I was moved to tears of thanksgiving. I know that there could not have been Easter Sunday without Good Friday, but I resist being stuck in Good Friday mode of mourning and keening forever. It is the resurrection and the restoration of Jesus to Christ that I want to keep in my heart always, for it means that I too can be resurrected and restored.

That We Be Reborn

Source of all that exists, You create your world anew every moment.
Would You but for a moment withhold your creative force,
The whole universe would come to an end.

You pour out your blessings on your creatures every instant,
And again the stars renew their song of love to You.

And again the angels chant over their song of holiness to You.
And again the souls of mortals repeat their yearning for You;
And again the birds keep chirping their hymns of joy to You.

And again the trees wrap themselves in their tallit of leaves
And offer their worship to You.
And again the fountains in whispers murmur their prayers to you.

O God, turn on me but one ray of Your light and I rise restored;
But one wave of your life eternal and I am drenched in the dew of youth.

Do You not continually renew your creation, O Source of all life?
Take me your child and renew me.
Breathe Your spirit into me that I may live, that I may start life
Afresh with childhood’s unbounded promise.

We thank You for both day and night, for continually renewing your creation.

Hillel Zeitlin

Whatever you are celebrating this weekend, may you also find restoration and renewal.

 

 

 

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Novelists Explore Internalized Racism

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I recently read two books in a row by African-American authors that address the state of internalized racism in America through deep satire.

Paul Beatty’s book, The Sellout, was written in 2015; Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s book came out earlier this year.

We often think of satire as having a humorous element, but in both of these books, I found that every time I was tempted to laugh, something pulled me back as I reflected on the reality behind the author’s words.

The Sellout is about an unnamed California man who owns a farm in a small town called Dickens on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He was home-schooled by his radical sociologist father, but it’s not your average home schooling. Hearing gun shots while having tokens of white supremacy put in your bassinet is traumatic, but certainly teaches a lesson.

Paul Beatty

Paul Beatty

Yet, as an adult, the narrator agrees to take on Hominy, Buckwheat’s understudy in The Little Rascals, as a slave. Yup, Hominy – after a youth spent being filmed portraying all the worst stereotypes of white audiences – insists on being enslaved, and the narrator obliges. He goes further and, with a little help from his friends, decides to re-create segregation in order to attract white people with money back to his hometown, which has been taken off the maps.

He winds up being arrested for violating every civil rights amendment and law and his case goes to the Supreme Court.

In his 2015 New York Times review, Dwight Garner calls the first 100 pages of the book “caustic and . . . badass.”

“What I mean,” he writes, “is that the first third of The Sellout reads like the most concussive monologues and interviews of Chris Rock, Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle wrapped in a satirical yet surprisingly delicate literary and historical sensibility.”

We Cast a Shadow, Maurice Carlos Ruffin’s satire, is more on the order of Key and Peele at their best and also more poignant to me. Again, we meet an unnamed man in a not-too-distant New Orleans who has married a white woman. Their son is very light-skinned and could pass for white except for patches of dark skin on various parts of his body. The father is obsessed with his son having all the advantages of being white to the point of subjecting him to various “demelanization” treatments, which the boy does not want and finds painful.

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

Maurice Carlos Ruffin

The narrator himself could be called a sellout. He has separated himself from his roots to the extent that he dresses “white” and does everything he can to align himself with the white higher-ups in his law firm in order to win a promotion and the bonus that will help him pay for his son’s whitening treatments.

How much of what he does is for love of his son or hatred of himself? He has father issues himself, as his father is serving a life sentence for assaulting a police officer who assaulted the narrator’s mother. He blames his father for resisting, even though they live in a project that is being more ghettoized every day and eventually is cordoned off from the rest of the city. In the next state over, presumably Mississippi, African-Americans have to wear tracking devices, so the narrator’s fears are very real.

All of it, however, comes down to white supremacy and the expectation by even liberal whites that black people just need to “get over” slavery. Just “get over” the fact that they’re only barely American citizens now because of what their ancestors endured in the Middle Passage and on the farms and plantations and building sites of the territory that eventually became the United States of America.

I noted above that every time I was tempted to laugh while reading either of the books, something held me back. More to the point, I had to wonder whether I, as a bleeding-heart liberal white woman, had a right to laugh. In Ruffin’s book, in particular, there were more moments where I was tempted to cry.

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah ends his NYT review of Ruffin’s book this way:

“How does racism shape our ability to love?

We Cast a Shadow churns fresh beauty from old ugliness. What injustices have we as a culture come to accept as normal? What are the pitfalls of our complacency? And how can anyone survive this? These questions are essential to America’s growth, but rarely do we see them posed so sharply. Read this book, and ask yourself: Is this the world you want?”

American Imprisonment

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American journalists Shane M. Bauer and Joshua F. Fattal left a notorious Iranian prison in 2011 after two years in captivity. A third journalist, Sarah Shourd, had already been released in 2010 after the three, who were reporting from Iraq, took a suggested hike and found themselves being accused of having crossed into Iran as spies.

Bauer, who is now married to Shourd, gives a brief account of the ordeal in his book, American Prison, an account of his real undercover exploit as a guard in a for-profit prison in Louisiana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPossibly Bauer, who works for Mother Jones Magazine, is the only person who could truly sum up the brutality of a private prison because he already knew what prison brutality could be like.

And in fact, there were factors in the American prison that he called worse than what he experienced in the Iranian prison.

American Prison,  A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment, released this fall, was named in The New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2018.

Just when it seemed that there was hope for prison reform under President Obama, the country fell into the abyss of the Trump regime and the Sessions Justice Department. While Bauer’s experience happened in 2014, there was hope that the tide against mass incarceration and imprisonment for profit might turn.

Instead we have more imprisonment for profit, called detaining young immigrants, and rollback of sentencing laws.

Bauer’s book about one of the prisons operated by Corrections Corporation of America (since renamed CoreCivic) is a painful but, in my opinion, necessary read. One will not be surprised that many of the worst abuses are against African-American prisoners. There are no legitimate efforts made to rehabilitate prisoners, and medical attention is applied sparingly because it cuts the profits. Prisoners have died from neglect.

Perhaps the worst is the utter hopelessness that is reflected in Bauer’s voice at the situation prisoners find themselves in. He describes an inmate nicknamed Corner Store who spends a year beyond his sentence in Winn, Louisiana, because his mother lives out of state and the prison provides him with no help in finding a situation in Louisiana that he can be released to.

If possible, even more frightening is Bauer’s own reactions to being a guard. He starts out trying to be empathetic but finds himself becoming hardened as time goes on to a point where he is writing up prisoners for trivial abuses of the Draconian regulations and beginning to not care a damn about the human beings he is hurting.

Bauer underwent this transformation in only four months, before his photographer was discovered on the jail’s property and Bauer and Shroud skedaddled. The photographer was locked up in Winn; Mother Jones’s lawyer was able to get him released.

For-profit prisons operate on a state level, contracting with the state for prisoners. But we can guess that both state and federal prisons are badly in need of reform, as are mandatory sentencing and over-sentencing. Michelle Alexander began the discussion with The New Jim Crow; Bryan Stevenson continued it with Just Mercy. Paul Butler advocates for prison reform in Chokehold, and I’m sure there are other books out there that I not read that advocate the same.

The point is, these books will continue to need to be written until the United States looks at incarceration and sentencing from a true point of justice and not from a point of vengeance.

Thoughts on The Mueller Report

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We’ve all heard a lot about the Mueller Report by now. I don’t claim any expertise other than having watched hours and hours of legal experts talk about it and having read much, though not all, of it. I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a citizen who has been highly distressed, even despairing, about the last 4 years of our country’s life. I offer here my thoughts and opinions about what the report, even redacted, says about the current president.

Volume I specifically deals with whether or not there was Russian interference in our 2016 election and whether there was conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign to enable interference. The report states uncategorically that there was Russian interference, and in fact it started in 2014 before the current president had announced candidacy for 2016.

I was surprised by how many redactions there were in Volume I, as I’d thought that Roger Stone’s case was the only outstanding one as to whether or not there was coordination with Russian operatives. There must be cases we’re not yet aware of and may never know about.

Russian operatives were sent to the United States in 2014 in order to begin to take the temperature of the country and infiltrate organizations that were disaffected by the Democratic President Obama. This says clearly to me that Russia wanted a Republican President elected, no matter whom, in 2016.

It also suggests to me that the fact that the President at the time was an African-American was seen as a path to sowing discord in the country by playing to White Supremacists and also that the Russian government who approved these special ops are White Supremacists themselves.

Here’s my takeaway from the beginning of Volume I:

  1. Page 9 While saying there was no evidence of a conspiracy on the part of the Trump campaign, Mueller does say that candidate Trump did see benefits in having Russia on his side.
  2. Page 12 Dates of when hacking of Hillary Clinton’s e-mails and the DNC coordinates with when it became clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee.
  3. Page 13 If there truly was no conspiracy, then Trump is the luckiest bastard in the world. It beggars belief that someone who already had a reputation for corrupt business practices was relying on ‘luck” rather than certain knowledge of what the Russians were doing.
  4. Page 14 Why would Manafort share polling data with Constantin Kilimnik, which is undisputed, if not to knowingly influence the election?
  5. Page 15 The timing of the Wikileaks dumps of John Podesta’s e-mails and the Billy Bush videotape of Trump bragging about his sexual assaults of women seem fishy at this remove. It has always been assumed that the e-mail dump was to distract from the pussy-grabbing video. However, it’s been more than clear that Trump’s sexual proclivities do not bother his supporters, even the Christian right. At the same time, it was becoming clearer that US intelligence agencies were known to be investigating Trump, and the video may have been released as a distraction to that. What would be more damaging to him before the election?
  6. Page 40 Further to my speculation about motives of racism on the part of the Russians, when the social media campaign started, the operatives invented a “Black Matters” Facebook page in order to confuse people about the actual group Black Lives Matter. They also threatened family members of Black Lives Matters activists (names redacted).

Volume II begins on Page 341 with an analysis of the possibility of obstruction of justice committed by the president. The report over and over again views actions by Trump both public and private as having the “potential” to fall within the rubrics of obstruction of justice.

There follows a long discussion of the definition of obstruction of justice and challenges to it, in which the report appears to conclude that limitations that Trump’s lawyers claimed for the statute are not valid.

Specific to this discussion is whether Congress can legitimately prosecute obstruction of justice charges against the president. The ruling theme is that neither Congress nor the president can do anything that would assume one or the other’s separate duties. The report concludes that Congress would not be infringing on the president’s Article II duties if it prosecuted him for obstruction of justice.

Be it noted that the first duty of a President is “To take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” We know that that has not happened with this administration.

In discussing ways in which Trump publicly and privately tried to coerce Michael Cohen into cooperating with the investigation, and then turned on him and gave an interview to Jeanine Pirro about Cohen’s father-in-law, the report repeatedly uses the term “points to evidence” that the president had criminal intent in silencing Cohen.

The report also finds Trump’s responses to the Special Counsel’s questions inadequate or incomplete. Most are answered by “I have no recollection” or objections that the incidents occurred two years before and important incidents cannot be remembered. There is also a lot of blame put on other people as reason why Trump doesn’t remember something, eg he testifies that the Moscow Tower plan was Michael Cohen’s idea and that he was not very interested in building in Moscow and therefore he doesn’t remember anything about those plans and communications from the Russian state administration about the plans.

Here is part of the Mueller Report’s ending summary:

  1. CONCLUSION

Because we determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment, we did not draw ultimate conclusions about the President s conduct. The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that would need to be resolved if we were making a traditional prosecutorial judgment. At the same time, if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, we are unable to reach that judgment. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.

In sum, contrary to the position taken by the President s counsel, we concluded that, in light of the Supreme Court precedent governing separation-of-powers issues, we had a valid basis for investigating the conduct at issue in this report. In our view, the application of the obstruction statutes would not impermissibly burden the President’s performance of his Article II function to supervise prosecutorial conduct or to remove inferior law-enforcement officers. And the protection of the criminal justice system from corrupt acts by any person – including the President – accords with the fundamental principle of our government that “[n]o [person] in this country is so high that he is above the law.”

 Mueller Report footnote footnote: 1091 A possible remedy through impeachment for abuses of power would not substitute for potential criminal liability after a President leaves office. Impeachment would remove a President from office, but would not address the underlying culpability of the conduct or serve the usual purposes of the criminal law. Indeed, the Impeachment Judgment Clause recognizes that criminal law plays an independent role in addressing an officials conduct, distinct from the political remedy of impeachment. See U.S. CONST. ART.

l, § 3, cl. 7. Impeachment is also a drastic and rarely invoked remedy, and Congress is not restricted to relying only on impeachment, rather than making criminal law applicable to a former President, as OLC has recognized. A Sitting President’s Amenability to Indictm ent and Criminal Prosecution, 24 Op. O.L.C.

at 255 (“Recognizing an immunity from prosecution for a sitting President would not preclude such prosecution once the President ‘s term is over or he is otherwise removed from office by resignation or impeachment.“).

My interpretation: “Have at him, Congress. Investigate him fully and bring charges of impeachment, which I cannot do, and then arrest the son-of-a-bitch the second he leaves the White House.”

There are only two legislators so far whose opinions on impeachment I respect. The first is Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose statement was unambiguous. The second is the Honorable Elijah Cummings, who gave more nuanced views to Joy Ann Reid on All In with Chris Hayes Tuesday evening. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCor-a3YPz4insert) I reject those Democratic legislators who say we’ll take care of this at the ballot box. The Russians are still interfering and states are still suppressing votes and we still have an Electoral College. I for one don’t trust the ballot box.

In addition, the president is still obstructing justice in plain sight through tweets and actions. He and advisers and cabinet officials are openly defying the House of Representatives and tromping all over its separate powers. Further, he has contributed not only to the acts of White Supremacists but is responsible for the death of children at the southern border. How much more harm can he do in a year and a half?

A lot. A hell of a lot.

 

 

Fear is a Jealous God

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“Fact, we all like our video doorbells,” says one of the Property Brothers with self-assurance that he is speaking for a large percentage of the viewership.

In another commercial for home security devices, a woman under a dryer at the salon looks at her phone and yells, “Get off my property, you creeps.”

In yet another, a man at work spends time making sure his doors at home are locked and the security alarm on via his cellphone.

Meanwhile, other people in commercials are worrying about their investments, the medicines they take, and whether they’ll have to walk five yards further to get to their rental car.

Is it me, or does it seem as if in the last few years fear itself has become a sellable commodity?

Okay, I’m fortunate. I’ve never owned anything except pets that I would fear losing to a burglar. I’ve often never even had to lock my door at night. I’m pretty healthy and I intend to stay that way. I don’t have investments.

But in conjunction with the fear-mongering that began four years ago when a certain someone descended a golden escalator, and what we have seen happen since including murders of people trying to hold back the white supremacist tide, it just seems to me as if someone is promoting the fear factor.

We all know that fear is one of the most primal instincts in human beings. We also know that, evolutionarily, it was a damned important instinct; without it, the species probably wouldn’t have survived long enough for us to be here.

As the world became more sophisticated (I won’t say civilized), there were far fewer things to fear in much of the world. But fear is a jealous god, and wants to hold people to itself. The voice in the brain went from, “Psst, there’s a sabre-tooth tiger about to pounce on you” to “Psst, that person over there owns more than you do” or “Psst, you might have that nasty disease” or “Psst, those people don’t look like you; get rid of them.”

War is fear, usually of boundaries. Racism is fear of others who don’t look like us or speak in the same language. Selfishness is fear that we will lose our toys. Injustice is fear that we can’t control others.

It is comes down to fear, that jealous god that wants us to live in a continuous state of anxiety so we won’t worship any other god.

One might say that the notion of Satan came about as the embodiment of fear.

I’m not saying that one shouldn’t feel secure in one’s home. I’m not saying that sick people shouldn’t seek medical help. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t invest their money.

I am saying that if we let fear rule our lives, we have sold our souls to Satan, and we will become the people in whom the consequences of fear – cruelty, lies, amorality – will become normal.

There is a plague of fear in this country, and it is spreading like a red tide. In ancient humans, the fear instinct evolved into the fight or flight response. Are we going to run away from this plague, or are we going to fight it?

I Believe in a Wall

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I thought that might catch your attention.

I don’t usually post blogs so close together, but my daily Lenten reading from Howard Thurman could have been written today and resonated with what I wrote earlier this week in “Grieving Violence Near and Far.”

“The final thing that my faith teaches me is that God is love. Not only that He is; that he is near; but that he is love. Fully do I realize how difficult this is. There is so much anguish in life, so much misery unmerited, so much pain, so much downright reflected hell everywhere that it sometimes seems to me that it is an illusion to say that God is love. When one comes into close grips with the perversity of personalities, with studied evil – it might be forgiven one who cried aloud to the Power over Life – human life is stain – blot it out! I know all that. I know that this world is messed up and confused. I know that much of society stretches out like a gaping sore that refuses to be healed. I know that life is often heartless, hard as pig iron. And yet, in the midst of all this I affirm my faith that God is love – whatever else He might be.”

Thurman knew all too well of what he wrote. Closely aligned with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, and as an African-American who grew up in segregated Daytona, he knew about “unmerited misery,” about “downright reflected hell,” and about “perversity of personalities” personally. All of his books treat in one way or another in how the Divine can help people to overcome these situations. But I had not read a paragraph that was such a naked confession as the one above.

I read it this morning after a group meditation on the holiness of hospitality and “entertaining angels unaware.” Most Wednesday mornings, I am part of worldwide group of people who pray for the world over the telephone. We are led with a guided meditation and then 15 minutes of silence before we offer what the Divine Spirit has said to us during that time. It seemed particularly necessary to pray together today after the slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand.

So after that experience, and then immediately reading Thurman’s meditation, my first response was to think that the amount of hatred and violence in the world today makes it seem not only like an illusion, but almost a profanity to say that God is love.

My second response, however, was to see that love is the only cure for the hatred and violence.

I’m not talking about loving the people who perpetrate this hatred and violence. I’m talking about connecting with all the people who believe in the Divine unity of creation and all beings in it to come together to build a wall of love that will eventually make it impossible for hate to enter in.

That wall is invisible, and it is penetrable for all who see themselves as part of a great whole. This is not to say that there will not continue to be violence, but it will not fragment that wall of love.

May it be so.

Grieving Violence Near and Far

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I sat in the traditional Congregational Church in my little New England town early Saturday evening with many others to grieve and ponder the series of tragedies that hit my town and the world last week.

I had come home from a refreshing vacation to learn, first, that one of those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash was a local woman, Samya  Stomo, who worked for an organization called ThinkWell. She was young, vibrant, and dedicated to her job of bringing global health initiatives to the under-served. She had visited Africa before; this time she was on her way to Uganda.

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The Rev. Erik Karas and the Rev. Jill Graham organized a prayer service where people could communally grieve the tragic deaths of members of the community and those who died in the mosque attacks in New Zealand.

The next morning, the town was again rocked by what is being called a murder-suicide. Five people died in their home, which was set on fire. It is not yet known whether the wife, a lawyer, and three young children were dead before the husband killed himself and set the fire.

On Friday we learned about the white terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand that killed at least 50 people and injured many more.

It was not just a one-two punch, but a one-two-three punch because all of these tragedies could have been averted.

I don’t believe in coincidence. I had started listening to Richard Rohr’s new book, The Universal Christ, during my long drive to North Carolina and back. Aside from the Christian theology, Rohr’s book emphasizes a concept I have believed in as long as I have been able to believe in anything: that every person on earth is brother and sister to everyone else on earth. Genetics proves it as much as theology. I believe it in both senses, and Rohr, a Catholic priest, seems to as well. He speaks to everyone, people of any faith, people of no faith, WE ARE ALL ONE.

And he sees, as many others do, that not understanding this is key to the actions that terrorize our world. Racism, Islamophobia, domestic violence, corporate violence: These can all be traced to thinking that we are not part of a global community, not one with all of creation, not accountable to each other for decisions we make, for taking our own pain on the world, for thinking that our skin color makes us better than anyone else.

One only had to watch Kirstjen Nielsen, head of the Department of Homeland Security, being grilled by Democrats in Congress on the outrage going on at the border with Mexico. As congresspeople were almost in tears trying to get her to give a yes or no answer about the evil policies in which she is complicit, she stared at them as if she had no clue that the damage being done to  babies, children, and adults because of the color of their skin is damage being done to all of humanity. She gave no clue that she felt any responsibility to give a damn about these “others.”

Ultimately, she gave no clue of any self-knowledge that she has willingly put herself into an existential hell on earth as she has put these asylum-seekers into a physical hell on earth.

I cannot bear to think of anyone as irredeemable. But it is not my place now to worry about the fates of those who commit violence on others. My place now is to grieve for my brothers and sisters around the world (and just this morning we learned of those killed in the Netherlands) and hope to persuade people to think of themselves as my brothers and sisters too.

Michelle Obama – She Became

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I usually listen to nonfiction because for some reason I understand it better when I hear it even though I can’t highlight and underline.

There was never a question that I would listen to Michelle Obama’s Becoming once I learned that she narrated it herself.

It is no exaggeration to say that the sound of her voice stating her truths – defiant, tender, exasperated, joyful, determined, awed – was one of the most powerful literary experiences I’ve had in a long time.

I don’t know what I expected. Perhaps that this would be a glossy, triumphant statement of the first African-American woman to be the First Lady and perhaps the most admired woman in the world.

michelle 1

There is already a determined look in that face.

It wasn’t. Ms. Obama holds no punches as she talks about the hard-earned victories of her life that were won against the odds of being black in America. She was an ambitious child from the get-go, funny and creative and imaginative as she grew up in a lower middle class family on the South Side of Chicago.

Her ambitions took her to an Ivy League college and on to a position in a prestigious law firm in Chicago (through which she met her future husband) and high-level positions with nonprofits. She makes no apologies for living the good life once she was making the good money. Even so, she continued to live at home with her loving parents, who encouraged her to be the person God dreamt her to be.

The tears started early on in her description of her relationship with her father. Although stricken with multiple sclerosis, he never missed a day of work until came the inevitable. Her relationship with her practical mother is also revelatory and predicts the extremely strong family bonds she and her husband created as his political career grew.

Ms. Obama did not want to be a political wife. She doesn’t hide the disappointments of playing not only second fiddle, but second fiddle to the first African-American to run for President, with all the pain and anger that brought with it. They had struggled for years to have children and finally resorted to in vitro fertilization. With the arrival of Malia and a few years later Sasha, she never wanted to stop working but she also wanted her little family to herself, safe and secure.

Still, there was an abiding sense that being President what God had dreamed him to be, so she carved out a place for herself in his campaign, insisted on having staff for herself, and learned to relate to people of all colors and contexts around the country.

The media was hot on her trail, waiting, it seemed, for her to make slips and for the right-wing media to translate anything she said into fear for white people. The conspiracy theories, the birtherism calumny led by one Donald Trump, all of it could have broken her spirit. Instead, with each new challenge, she adjusted herself to finding a way to act within the framework of that challenge and, as she famously said, “When they go low, we go high.”

When she described President Obama’s first election to the Presidency, I cried again, thinking of that night when I had decided that I wanted to hear the news, good or bad, from Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. The news came surprisingly early, and as Jon Stewart announced with tears in his own eyes, “I have the privilege of telling you that Barack Obama is the next President of the United States,” I wept for joy and called my sister and we wept together.

The next eight years were never particularly easy for Ms. Obama, with two growing girls, her husband often away, threats coming in, and the eternal presence of Secret Service agents for herself and her family. But she persisted in carving out a way to live as a family and a way to make her own mark on the Presidency, particularly in regard to children’s nutrition and veterans and military families. As her husband did, she applied herself to making a difference, and she did.

I could go on, but I’d rather you read it – or better yet, heard it – for yourself, if you haven’t already. This is a remarkable portrait of a remarkable woman of whom I’ve no doubt we will continue to hear. You will weep with her and rejoice with her, be angry on her behalf and be proud of her accomplishments. It took courage to write this particular book at this particular time, and you will applaud that courage and even feel as if you knew her well.