Friday, December 16, 2011
my interview with Liza Mundy about Michelle Obama
Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with Washington Post reporter Liza Mundy about her 2008 biography of Michelle Obama entitled "Michelle." This book was researched and completed before the Obama inauguration. I loved reading this book and I loved my conversation with Liza Mundy. The book really helped me appreciate the ambition of Michelle Obama. The two major moves in Michelle Robinson's life came about as a result of her writing letters. This is before email became popular in the nineties. She wrote a letter to Sidley Austin when she was in Princeton. It was because of this letter that got her in their Chicago law firm where she met her future husband. While at Sidley Austin, she wrote a letter to Valerie Jarrett, who worked in the Daley mayoral administration who was so impressed with her letter and her conversation, that she invited Michelle Obama to work with her in the Daley administration. Michelle Obama's letter writing is a testament to the importance of reading and writing in the lives of African Americans. Michelle Obama is a descendant of an enslaved people who were persecuted for learning to read, in order to remain psychologically enslaved and enslaved by law. Michelle Obama, however, uses her free will ability to read and to write to advance herself and break the gender norms of domesticity that much of her female descendants were proscribed by. I agreed with Mundy's point in this biography that Michelle Obama is a "radical integrationist" and I am interested in how her role as this is changing American society. Most of all I appreciate how Liza Mundy's writing of Michelle Obama shows how she is so much greater than the domesticated First Lady role that mainstream America wants to proscribe her to. Michelle Obama is much bigger than the role she plays as First Lady. I hope this interview and Liza Mundy's book is a testament to this. -RF.