Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” is on my reading list so I am delighted to share a review of it from Bijal Shah. Bijal is a book therapist, author, poet & founder of Book Therapy where she harnesses the power of literature for therapeutic purposes.

Michelle Obama

“With February being Black History Month, there’s no better book that I can think of to recommend. This is the book that I have already gifted more than 25 copies of and as a book therapist, have prescribed to every single one of my clients this year.

Yes, it’s Michelle Obama’s “Becoming”. The book has influenced me hugely. It has given me so much hope and inspiration and I’m not the only one. I have been in bookstores, accidentally eavesdropping on conversations and this has been the most-talked about book with everyone trying to get their hands on it.

On the surface, Obama seems to have it all: the picture-perfect marriage, family, career, ambition, confidence – was she born with it? No. If there was one thing that got her to this stage, it was her attitude, her mind-set, her belief in herself and her single-minded focus to never concede her identity to simply be Barack Obama’s wife.

She refused to be his follower. She needed to anchor herself in her own identity, her own capabilities, her own ambitions and motivations to make a difference. This was tremendously important to her for her own self-esteem but also that of her daughters. The following quote from the book eloquently articulates it:

“I felt like, I need to anchor myself in who I was so I wouldn’t be this woman following this man. I really felt that I could get caught up in his swerving, that I would just become part of his swerve rather then figuring out my own self. So, yes, it was destabilizing but it was a motivator. … So that I didn’t just become his woman, which I knew I didn’t want to be.”

She inspires women to pursue their identities beyond that of a mother and a wife – to truly contribute to your family and society over and above simply being a mother. How did she do this when she had her own fair share of struggles – inability to conceive children naturally, the struggles of IVF, learning to release “mum-guilt”, seeking help by attending marriage counselling, hoping to get through the daily life struggles that every couple goes through.

Michelle Obama

The key things that stood out for me personally were:

• Never give up your identity in a relationship for the sake of your partner’s. This is a lose-lose outcome for both of you.
• Don’t expect your partner to create happiness for you. Happiness is a skill and you need to work at building it for yourself.
• Ask for help – and never feel guilty about this. No one can do it alone and ditch the “should”.
• We are all unfinished products and are constantly “Becoming”.
• Consider every single possible outcome when making a decision.
• Make time for your relationship – even if you’re deeply in love.

I listened to it on Audio and instantly felt a connection with her. It truly is an intimate portrait of a lady who has inspired millions around the world and I hope it will inspire you too. It’s been added to my A-Z Book Prescription for Women’s Empowerment Book Prescription. Enjoy!”

You can email Bijal at bijal@booktherapy.io for a personalized reading list.

My Random Musings
Family Fever

Me. the Boy and the Monster is a powerful book about adoption, trauma and abuse. It is written by Cat McGill who reflects on these issues drawing on her experiences of parenting Tickle her adopted son and her birth daughter Fairy. The book is a clever mix of personal stories taken from Cat’s blog and really clear explanations of the impact of trauma on the brain and hence on behaviours. I have had to wait a few days before posting this review as it had quite an impact on me as an adopted person myself.

Me, The Boy And The Monster

The Author

Cat has a background in developmental psychology which equips her to translate some quite complex theories into relatively easy-to-understand language for the newcomer to such topics. Cat is also a mum to Fairy her daughter by birth who arrived first. Cat decided to adopt Tickle her son and over time has learned to get to know him and to confront challenges she may not have expected such as violent behaviours. Like many a parent, she has used blogging to process her thoughts and feelings. Via social media she has found a powerful adoption community who can offer vital support when it all seems too much as an adoptive parent.

Tickle and the Monster

Tickle is a little boy who had a bad start in life including various forms of abuse in his birth home. Cat did not know the full extent of the abuse against him when she adopted him and had to cope with distressing disclosures. Decisions had to be made about which authorities to involve and how as Tickle shared more of his past. The Monster refers to the entity inside of Tickle that tries to keep him safe. It is a concept developed by Cat to help herself and others to make sense of things when Tickle’s behaviour is challenging.

Topics covered in the book

There are some quite deep issues covered in the book but they are presented in ways that make them easy to understand. I need to return and read again in certain parts to fully grasp things but the language is not daunting. You will learn about dissociation, attachment and enabling emotional regulation. Although I think adopted parents may gain most from the book, I also think any parent can learn from some of the information on how the brain works. Cat shares some useful strategies to try when things go awry with your child too which as a birth parent I can see the sense in.

My overall impressions

In a way I feel I was the wrong person to review this book or at least on a first reading. I was born in 1968 the product of the Swinging Sixties and dance halls by all accounts. I spent many months in a Catholic Convent as my birth mum veered between having me adopted and not. I was fostered to my family in 1969 and the full adoption order went through in 1970. I have no evidence that I was abused so I find it difficult to compare myself with Tickle who has suffered so much. And yet I know I have struggled over the years so keen to work out my identity and so fearful of people in all sorts of situations. I am hard to get close to and I am ever vigilant almost expecting to be hurt. That has eased over the years of course but remains a part of who I am. Cat’s book helped me understand myself better and to forgive myself for being quite so weird. If I take Kate out of the equation and just see a little girl whose needs were not met as a baby, it all makes absolute sense. My late Dad once gave me a great gift by saying “Over the years I have worked out there will always be a void in you and whatever me and your Mam did we could not fill it”. That sounds terribly sad but it gave me peace in a funny sort of way. I have emailed the author about all this and she is incredibly generous-spirited and has shared some resources for me to investigate further.

What I can say is that I highly recommend this book. Some inspirational people like my parents, Andrea who knows who she is and Cat (who would not accept that about themselves) go further than most of us in giving a child or children in need a new opportunity. I hope anyone parent or not reading this blog would want the best for all children and I reckon we can all do this better in our families, friendship groups and society as a whole if we understand children generally better and especially those who carry trauma.

I usually give the books a review a score. I am not going to do this today. This book is more important than that.


Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Confessions of a New Mummy

Family Fever
Cuddle Fairy

The Silver Moon Storybook is a beautiful book that would make a great gift for any age from younger children to adults. It consists of seven short stories of the fairy tale variety weaving timeless themes into its wonderful stories.

Silver Moon Storybook

What I loved about the book

The book is lovely to hold in hardback with a dark blue cover beautified by silver lettering and images. The text is broken up by lovely black and white images that capture the imagination. You have around one illustration per two pages on average and I really don’t miss colour because the images are wondrous. The stories are short but detailed enough for you to actually care about the characters. This is a world of magical creatures from unicorns to clowns, from mermaids to witches, from spiders to wise old crones. The themes are the important ones in life such as learning, love and loss. There is a feminist element to the book too although I believe people who do not identify as feminists would enjoy the book too.

What I disliked about the book

As I often do with short stories, I had a feeling the endings were not satisfactory sometimes and a little rushed. I can see it is a challenge to do a long denouement when you are sticking to the short story format. Perhaps I was just a little sad to leave each magical tale behind.

How I felt when reading the book

It felt liberating to return to reading fairy tales again. I am passing on the book to my daughter first and then my son but it was lovely to indulge in this book as a middle-aged woman in my own right. Aspects of the book really moved me particularly when themes of freedom came up possibly saying a lot about how I feel about my lot in life right now. There was a lovely bit about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime that also resonated with me deeply at a soul level.

What I questioned about the book

I questioned that the feminist angle to the book was not strong enough for my tastes or at least not what I am used to having read feminist fairy stories a long time ago. I asked the author about this and loved her response.

I included several stories about men in The Silver Moon storybook because I see these feminist fairy tales as a challenge to patriarchy, not to men themselves.

It’s absolutely true and correct to say that men are the main material beneficiaries of patriarchy – after all a patriarchal society is built around the needs and expectations of men. However we also know that patriarchy damages men as well, for example by perpetuating stereotypes like “boys don’t cry” that leave men struggling to identify and manage their emotions. We only have to look at rates of male violence and male suicide (suicide is the biggest killer of men under 50) to see the gravity of the effects of this emotional neglect.

When I call myself a feminist, and this a feminist book, I base that on my belief that feminism offers us a route to equality – not just material equality, but emotional equality as well. To me this means addressing not only the myriad, material and very visible ways that patriarchy hurts women, but also the more insidious and hidden problems that affect men. I believe that if we can come to a better understanding of how women *and* men suffer under patriarchy, we have a better chance of convincing people to work together to address the issues we face and make life better for everyone.

Also, rather cynically, the straight white male is still the ultimate top banana of social hierarchy; if we want to effect real, radical change, he’s the one we will need to convince if we want him to share, and we simply won’t manage that without due consideration to his side of the story. This is why I correct anybody who says I’ve written a book of feminist fairy tales “for girls” – these messages are important for boys to hear as well; through my enormous clown and my gnome I provide them with role models showing that it’s healthy and important for men to feel emotions, to make emotional connections with other people, and to stand up for women in the face of toxic masculinity.

Lastly, I wanted young women to see these men being strong and fighting back against patriarchy – it’s important for women to know that decent men are allies, not opponents. I could easily have written a book filled simply with stories of empowered women winning the day, princesses fighting the dragon and casting all my male characters as abusers and oppressors, I just don’t think that would be a fair or accurate reflection of the true nature of our struggles towards equality.


I recommend this book for yourself or as a lovely gift for a loved one. It reminded me a little in some ways of the Brothers Grimm tales due to its diverse characters and settings. I think it is a book that I will need to return to again and again to get the most from and that is a positive. Next time around, I will take notes and there is an actual section where you can do this at the end of the book. I loved how some of the same characters came up in different stories catching me by surprise. These days that’s a little like reconnecting with people you knew long ago via Facebook. I also felt that the book was a little like how they say your life flashes past you at the time of death. All of the characters felt they had appeared for a reason and has powerful lessons to teach if only you could decipher them. I would score this book as a 9 out of 10.


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My Random Musings

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