Becoming

Becoming

Book - 2018 | First edition.
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c
cknightkc
Jun 23, 2019

“Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result.” - p. 43

c
cknightkc
Jun 23, 2019

“Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?” - p. 118

c
cknightkc
Jun 23, 2019

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” - p. 419

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Many quotes in goodreads already, likely includes many below:

I’ve wanted to ask my detractors which part of that phrase matters to them the most — is it “angry” or “black” or “woman”?
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Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.
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Everything that mattered was within a five-block radius — my grandparents and cousins, the church on the corner where we were not quite regulars at Sunday school, the gas station where my mother sometimes sent me to pick up a pack of Newport’s, and the liquor store, which also sold Wonder bread, penny candy, and gallons of milk.
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Robbie and Terry were older. They grew up in a different era, with different concerns. They’d seen things our parents hadn’t — things that Craig and I, in our raucous childishness, couldn’t begin to guess.
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He was devoted to his car, a bronze - colored two - door Buick Electra 225, which he referred to with pride as “the Deuce and a Quarter.”

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

If you’d had a head start at home, you were rewarded for it at school, deemed “bright” or “gifted,” which in turn only compounded your confidence. The advantages aggregated quickly.
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Kids found one another based not on the color of their skin but on who was outside and ready to play.
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In 1950, fifteen years before my parents moved to South Shore, the neighborhood had been 96 percent white. By the time I’d leave for college in 1981, it would be about 96 percent black.
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If my mother were somebody different, she might have done the polite thing and said, “Just go and do your best.” But she knew the difference. She knew the difference between whining and actual distress.
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Their anger over it can manifest itself as unruliness. It’s hardly their fault. They aren’t “bad kids.” They’re just trying to survive bad circumstances

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

For the next nine years, knowing that I’d earned it, I made myself a fat peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast each morning and consumed not a single egg.
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My grandfather, born in 1912, was the grandson of slaves, the son of a millworker, and the oldest of what would be ten children in his family. A quick-witted and intelligent kid, he’d been nicknamed “the Professor” and set his sights early on the idea of someday going to college. But not only was he black and from a poor family, he also came of age during the Great Depression.
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If you wanted to work as an electrician (or as a steelworker, carpenter, or plumber, for that matter) on any of the big job sites in Chicago, you needed a union card. And if you were black, the overwhelming odds were that you weren’t going …
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Speaking a certain way — the “white” way, as some would have it — was perceived as a betrayal, as being uppity, as somehow denying our culture.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.
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I tore through the lessons, quietly keeping tabs on where I stood among my peers as we charted our progress from long division to pre-algebra, from writing single paragraphs to turning in full research papers. For me, it was like a game. And as with any game, like most any kid, I was happiest when I was ahead.
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Advice, when she offered it, tended to be of the hard-boiled and pragmatic variety. “You don’t have to like your teacher,” she told me one day after I came home spewing complaints. “But that woman’s got the kind of math in her head that you need in yours. Focus on that and ignore the rest. ”
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Her goal was to push us out into the world. “I’m not raising babies,” she’d tell us. “I’m raising adults.”
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We weren’t going to “hang out” or “take a walk.” We were going to make out. And we were both all for it.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

I was caught up in the lonely thrill of being a teenager now, convinced that the adults around me had never been there themselves.
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Was she picturing herself on a tropical island somewhere? With a different kind of man, or in a different kind of house, or with a corner office instead of kids? I don’t know, and I suppose I could ask my mother, who is now in her eighties, but I don’t think it matters.
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If you’ve never passed a winter in Chicago, let me describe it: You can live for a hundred straight days beneath an iron-gray sky that claps itself like a lid over the city. Frigid, biting winds blow in off the lake. Snow falls in dozens of ways, in heavy overnight dumps and daytime, sideways squalls, in demoralizing sloppy sleet and fairy-tale billows of fluff. There’s ice, usually, lots of it, that shellacs the sidewalks and windshields that then need to be scrapped.
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I hadn’t needed to show her anything. I was only showing myself.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

I hoped that someday my feelings for a man would knock me sideways, that I’d get swept into the upending, tsunami-like rush that seemed to power all the best love stories.
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I’d been raised on the bedrock of football, basketball, and baseball, but it turned out that East Coast prep schoolers did more. Lacrosse was a thing. Field hockey was a thing. Squash, even, was a thing. For a kid from the South Side, it could be a little dizzying. “You row crew?” What does that even mean?
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It was hardly a straight meritocracy. There were the athletes, for example. There were the legacy kids, whose fathers and grandfathers had been Tigers or whose families had funded the building of a dorm or a library.
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If in high school I’d felt as if I were representing my neighborhood, now at Princeton I was representing my race.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

In my experience, you put a suit on any half-intelligent black man and white people tended to go bonkers.
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To me, he was sort of like a unicorn — unusual to the point of seeming almost unreal.
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Compared with my own lockstep march toward success, the direct arrow shot of my trajectory from Princeton to Harvard to my desk on the forty-seventh floor, Barack’s path was an improvisational zigzag through disparate worlds.
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He was in law school, he explained, because grassroots organizing had shown him that meaningful societal change required not just the work of the people on the ground but stronger policies and governmental action as well.
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There was no arguing with the fact that even with his challenged sense of style, Barack was a catch. He was good-looking, poised, and successful. He was athletic, interesting, and kind. What more could anyone want? I sailed into the bar, certain I was doing everyone a favor — him and all the ladies

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

There was a time, he told me, when he’d been looser, more wild. He’d spent the first twenty years of his life going by the nickname Barry. As a teen, he smoked pot in the lush volcanic foothills of Oahu. At Occidental, he rode the waning energy of the 1970s, embracing Hendrix and the Stones. … He was white and black, African and American. He was modest and lived modestly, yet knew the richness of his own mind and the world of privilege that would open up to him as a result.
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“Why would someone as smart as you do something as dumb as that?” I’d blurted on the very first day we met, watching him cap off our lunch with a smoke.
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“I think we should go out,” Barack announced one afternoon as we sat finishing a meal. “What, you and me?” I feigned shock that he even considered it a possibility. “I told you, I don’t date. And I’m your adviser. ” He gave a wry laugh. “ Like that counts for anything. You’re not my boss,” he said.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

It took effort, he cautioned. It required mapping strategy and listening to your neighbors and building trust in communities where trust was often lacking. It meant asking people you’d never met to give you a bit of their time or a tiny piece of their paycheck. It involved being told no in a dozen or a hundred different ways before hearing the “yes” that would make all the difference.
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Who are you to be telling us what to do? But skepticism didn’t bother him, the same way long odds didn’t seem to bother him. Barack was a unicorn, after all — shaped by his unusual name, his odd heritage, his hard-to-pin-down ethnicity, his missing dad, his unique mind. He was used to having to prove himself, pretty much anywhere he went.
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The choice, as he saw it, was this: You give up or you work for change. “What’s better for us?” Barack called to the people gathered in the room. “Do we settle for the world as it is, or do we work for the world as it should be?”

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

So many of my friends judged potential mates from the outside in, focusing first on their looks and financial prospects. If it turned out the person they’d chosen wasn’t a good communicator or was uncomfortable with being vulnerable, they seemed to think time or marriage vows would fix the problem. But Barack had arrived in my life a wholly formed person.
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My mom, who’d just driven an hour to fetch me from the airport, who was letting me live rent-free in the upstairs of her house, and who would have to get herself up at dawn the next morning in order to help my disabled dad get ready for work, was hardly ready to indulge my angst about fulfillment.
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“If you’re asking me,” she said, “I say make the money first and worry about your happiness later.”

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

We were both, of course, products of how we’d been raised. Barack had experienced marriage as ephemeral: His mother had married twice, divorced twice, and in each instance managed to move on with her life, career, and young children intact. My parents, meanwhile, had locked in early and for life. For them, every decision was a joint decision, every endeavor a joint endeavor. In thirty years, they’d hardly spent a night apart.
===

It hurts to live after someone has died. It just does. It can hurt to walk down a hallway or open the fridge. It hurts to put on a pair of socks, to brush your teeth. Food tastes like nothing. Colors go flat. Music hurts, and so do memories. You look at something you’d otherwise find beautiful — a purple sky at sunset or a playground full of kids — and it only somehow deepens the loss. Grief is so lonely this way
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My father was just fifty-five when he died. Suzanne had been twenty-six.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

What was wrong with him? What was wrong with me? What kind of future did we have if we couldn’t sort this out? We weren’t fighting, but we were quarreling, and doing it attorney-style.
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Like any newish couple, we were learning how to fight. We didn’t fight often, and when we did, it was typically over petty things, a string of pent-up aggravations that surfaced usually when one or both of us got overly fatigued or stressed . But we did fight. And for better or worse, I tend to yell when I’m angry. When something sets me off, the feeling can be intensely physical, a kind of fireball running up my spine and exploding with such force that I sometimes later don’t remember what I said in the moment. Barack, meanwhile, tends to remain cool and rational, his words coming in an eloquent (and therefore irritating) cascade.
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When we fight now, it’s far less dramatic, often more efficient, and always with our love for each other, no matter how strained, still in sight.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

For me and Barack, this was as surprising as it was disappointing. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to come up with a pregnancy.
===

We had one pregnancy test come back positive, which caused us both to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we’d felt.
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What nobody tells you is that miscarriage happens all the time, to more women than you’d ever guess, given the relative silence around it.
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The mystery of why we weren’t getting pregnant would remain just that. He suggested that I try taking Clamed, a drug meant to stimulate egg production, for a couple of months. When that didn’t work, he recommended we move to in vitro fertilization.
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Part-time work was meant to give me more freedom, but mostly it left me feeling as if I were only half doing everything, that all the lines in my life had been blurred.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

When it came to working and parenting, we were doing it every sort of way. Some of us worked full-time, some part-time, some stayed at home with their kids. Some allowed their toddlers to eat hot dogs and corn chips; others served whole-grain everything. A few had super-involved husbands; others had husbands like mine, who were oversubscribed and away a lot. Some of my friends were incredibly happy; others were trying to make changes, to attempt a different sort of balance. ...
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“Barack is viewed in part to be the white man in blackface in our community,” Donne Trotter told the Chicago Reader. Speaking to the same publication, Bobby Rush said, “He went to Harvard and became an educated fool. We’re not impressed with these folks with these eastern elite degrees. ” He’s not one of us, in other words. Barack wasn’t a real black man, like them — someone who spoke like that, looked like that, and read that many books could never be.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Barack was reluctant at first to try couples counseling. He was accustomed to throwing his mind at complicated problems and reasoning them out on his own. Sitting down in front of a stranger struck him as uncomfortable, if not a tad dramatic. Couldn’t he just run over to Borders and buy some relationship books? Weren’t there discussions we could have on our own?
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According to my mother, who would probably want some sort of live-and-let-live slogan carved on her headstone, the key was never to let a bully’s insults or aggression get to you personally.
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My father, Fraser Robinson, worked for more than twenty years for the city of Chicago, tending boilers at a water filtration plant on the lakeshore. Even as his multiple sclerosis made it increasingly difficult for him to walk, he never missed a day of work.
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“Daddy, are you going to try to be president?” she’d asked. “Don’t you think maybe you should be vice president or something first?”

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Barack, meanwhile, had listened to Toot, his white grandmother, make offhanded ethnic generalizations and even confess to her black grandson that she sometimes felt afraid when running into a black man on the street. We had lived for years with the narrow-mindedness of some of our elders, having accepted that no one is perfect, particularly those who’d come of age in a time of segregation.
===
The whole affair was a reminder of how our country’s distortions about race could be two-sided — that the suspicion and stereotyping ran both ways.
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It’s remarkable how a stereotype functions as an actual trap. How many “angry black women” have been caught in the circular logic of that phrase? When you aren’t being listened to, why wouldn’t you get louder? If you’re written off as angry or emotional, doesn’t that just cause more of the same?

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Barack had received the authorization codes that would allow him to access the country’s nuclear arsenal and a briefing on the protocols for using them. From now on, wherever he went, he’d be closely trailed by a military aide carrying a forty-five-pound briefcase containing launch authentication codes and sophisticated communications devices, often referred to as the nuclear football.
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Over the course of the afternoon, the staff had pulled off an extraordinary top-to-bottom flip of the residence, whisking the Bushes’ belongings out and our belongings in. In the span of about five hours, the carpets had been steamed to help keep Malia’s allergies from being activated by traces of the former president’s dogs. Furniture was brought in and arranged, floral decorations set out. By the time we rode the elevator upstairs, our clothes were organized neatly in the closets; the kitchen pantry had been stocked with our favorite foods.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

The White House, one learns, operates with the express purpose of optimizing the well-being, efficiency, and overall power of one person — and that’s the president
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He now had about fifty staffers reading and answering his mail. He had Marine helicopter pilots standing by to fly him anywhere he needed to go, and a six-person team that organized thick briefing books so he could stay current on the issues and make educated decisions. He had a crew of chefs looking after his nutrition, and a handful of grocery shoppers who safeguarded us from any sort of food sabotage by making anonymous runs to different stores, picking up supplies without ever revealing whom they worked for.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Most amusing to me was the fact that he now had three personal military valets whose duties included standing watch over his closet, making sure his shoes were shined, his shirts pressed, and his gym clothes always fresh and folded. Life in the White House was very different from life in the Hole.
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While we stayed rent-free in the residence and had our utilities and staffing paid for, we nonetheless covered all other living expenses, which seemed to add up quickly, ... We got an itemized bill each month for every food item and roll of toilet paper. We paid for every guest who came for an overnight stay or joined us for a meal.
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The absence of diversity was glaring — honestly, it was embarrassing — for a modern, multicultural country. It was most dramatic among the Republicans. At the time, there were just seven nonwhite Republicans in Congress — none of them African American and only one was a woman. Overall, four out of five members of Congress were male.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Barack’s speech that night was detailed and sober-minded, acknowledging the grim state of the economy, the wars going on, the ongoing threat of terror attacks, and the anger of many Americans who felt the government’s bailout of the banks was unfairly helping those responsible for the financial crisis. He was careful to be realistic but also to sound notes of hope, reminding his listeners of our resilience as a nation, our ability to rebound after tough times
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Buckingham Palace is big — so big that it almost defies description. It has 775 rooms and is fifteen times the size of the White House. In the years to come, Barack and I would be lucky enough to return there a few times as invited guests. On our later trips, we’d sleep in a sumptuous bedroom suite on the ground floor of the palace, looked after by liveried footmen and ladies-in-waiting. We’d attend a formal banquet in the ballroom, eating with forks and knives coated in gold.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

Barack ran on the treadmill about an hour every day, trying to beat back his physical restlessness.
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I sighed sometimes, watching Barack pull the same dark suit out of his closet and head off to work without even needing a comb. His biggest fashion consideration for a public moment was whether to have his suit jacket on or off. Tie or no tie?
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As First Lady of Arkansas, Hillary had kept her job as a law partner while also helping with her husband’s efforts to improve health care and education. Arriving in Washington with the same sort of desire and energy to contribute, though, she’d been roundly spurned, pilloried for taking on a policy role in the White House’s work on health-care reform. The message had been delivered with a resounding, brutal frankness: Voters had elected her husband and not her. First Ladies had no place in the West Wing.

j
jimg2000
Feb 05, 2019

ATTENTION TO ALL THOSE WHO ENTER HERE: If you are coming into this room with sorrow or to feel sorry for my wounds, go elsewhere. The wounds I received, I got in a job I love, doing it for people I love, supporting the freedom of a country I deeply love. I am incredibly tough and will make a full recovery.
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When you’re married to the president, you come to understand quickly that the world brims with chaos that disasters unfurl without notice. Forces seen and unseen stand ready to tear into whatever calm you might feel. The news could never be ignored: An earthquake devastates Haiti. A gasket blows five thousand feet underwater beneath an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, sending millions of barrels of crude oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. Revolution stirs in Egypt. A gunman opens fire in the parking lot of an Arizona supermarket, killing six people and maiming a U.S. congresswoman.


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