Malia and Sasha Obama: What Mom’s memoir reveals about their White House years

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President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Malia and Sasha at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Nov. 7, 2012. Jewel Samad / Getty Images

The stage is set for Tuesday night’s United Center launch of Michelle Obama’s book tour in support of her hugely anticipated memoir “Becoming.”

The book is among the most anticipated political memoirs in years, topping’s best-seller list throughout the weekend, according to the Associated Press. On Monday, Barnes & Noble announced that pre-orders for “Becoming” were the highest for any adult book since Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” which was published in 2015.

The media blitz over Obama’s book has been non-stop since last week, from myriad “exclusive” television interviews to Chicago-area public appearances, including the former first lady’s Monday visit to her high school alma mater, Whitney Young, on Chicago’s West Side. The pre-launch festivities continue Tuesday afternoon with Mrs. Obama’s first official book signing slated for the Seminary Co-op on South Woodlawn Avenue.

Excerpts from the book about Michelle Obama’s life have flooded media outlets for the past few days, including the Sun-Times which highlighted some of what Obama writes about her Chicago upbringing.

But the book also gives a unique peek at what eight years in the White House were like for daughters Malia, now 20, and Sasha, now 17.

Here are some highlights of the first daughters’ lives during their father’s presidency, as revealed in their Mom’s memoir “Becoming”:

Kids will be kids — even on inauguration day:

“I marveled at how our daughters had managed themselves perfectly throughout the inauguration, never fidgeting, slouching, or forgetting to smile. … When Barack and I stepped out to walk a short stretch of the parade route and wave to the public, Malia and Sasha stayed behind inside the warm cocoon of the moving limo. It seemed to hit them then that they were finally relatively alone and out of sight. By the time Barack and I climbed back in, the two girls were breathless and laughing, having released themselves from all ceremonial dignity. They’d shucked off their hats and messed up each other’s hair and were thrashing around, engaged in a sisterly tickle fight. Tired out, finally, they sprawled across the seats and rode the rest of the way with their feet kicked up, blasting Beyoncé on the car stereo as if it were just any old day.”

Teens just know when Mom and Dad’s agenda is no longer cool:

“Like all kids, Sasha and Malia outgrew things over time. Since the first year of Barack’s presidency, they had joined him in front of reporters each fall while he performed what had to be the most ridiculous ritual of the office — pardoning a live turkey just ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. For the first five years, they’d smiled and giggled as their dad cracked corny jokes. But by the sixth year, at thirteen and sixteen, they were too old to even pretend it was funny. … Their attendance at the pardon, as well as at virtually every White House event, became entirely optional. These were happy, well-adjusted teens with lives that were accordingly rich with activities and social intrigue having nothing to do with their parents. As a parent, you’re only sort of in control, anyway. Our kids had their own agendas, which left them less impressed with even the more fun parts of ours. ‘Don’t you want to come downstairs tonight and hear Paul McCartney play?’ ‘Mom, please. No.’”

Just hanging out at home — even when that home is the White House — with friends:

“There was often music blasting from Malia’s room. Sasha and her friends had taken a shine to cable cooking shows and sometimes commandeered the residence kitchen to decorate cookies or whip up elaborate, multicourse meals for themselves.”

With 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, and 28 fireplaces spread out over six floors, the White House nevertheless had to feel like a normal home for Malia and Sasha:

“The private area of the White House occupies about twenty thousand square feet on the top two stories of the main historical structure … I saw the dining room where First Families ate their meals and popped my head into the tidy kitchen, where a culinary staff was already at work on dinner. … I was most interested in checking out the two bedrooms that I thought would work best for Sasha and Malia, just down the hall from the master bedroom. For me, the girls’ sense of comfort and home was key.”


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Michelle Obama’s visit thrills dance team at her alma mater, Whitney Young

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The logistics of getting the girls to school:

“Having arrived only the night before from Chicago, Barack was hoping to ride all the way to school with the girls, but he knew it would create too much of a scene. His motorcade was too big. He’d become too heavy. I could read the pain of this in his face as Sasha and Malia hugged him good-bye. My mom and I then accompanied the girls in what would become their new form of school bus — a black SUV with smoked windows made of bulletproof glass.”

Malia Obama goes to prom:

“Normally, for security reasons, Malia and Sasha weren’t allowed to ride in anyone else’s car. Malia had a provisional license by then and was able to drive herself around town, though always with agents following in their own vehicle. But still, since moving to Washington at the age of ten, she’d never once ridden a bus or the Metro or been driven by someone who didn’t work for the Secret Service. For prom night, though, we were making an exception. On the appointed evening, her date arrived in his car, clearing security at the southeast gate of the White House … Just be cool please, okay?’ Malia had said to me and Barack, her embarrassment already beginning to smolder as we rode the elevator downstairs. I was barefoot, and Barack was in flip-flops. … Barack and I shook the young man’s hand, snapped a few pictures, and gave our daughter a hug before sending them on their way. We took what was perhaps unfair comfort in the knowledge that Malia’s security detail would basically ride the boy’s bumper all the way to the restaurant where they were going for dinner before the dance and would remain on quiet duty throughout the night.”

The family heads to Grant Park for an election victory celebration — Chicago-style:

“We were gliding now in a police-escorted motorcade along Lake Shore Drive, speeding south toward Grant Park. … This was my city, as familiar to me as a place could be, and yet that night it felt different, transformed into something strangely quiet. … Malia had been peering out the window of the SUV, taking it all in. ‘Daddy,’ she said, sounding almost apologetic. ‘There’s no one on the road. I don’t think anyone’s coming to your celebration.’ Barack and I looked at each other and started to laugh. It was then that we realized that ours were the only cars on the street. Barack was now president-elect. The Secret Service had cleared everything out, shutting down an entire section of Lake Shore Drive, blocking every intersection along the route — a standard precaution for a president.”

“Becoming” (Crown Publishing Group) is available at retailers starting today.

President Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, and two daughters, Sasha and Malia, celebrate election night in 2008 in Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama’s career began. | Jae C. Hong/AP

President Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, and two daughters, Sasha and Malia, celebrate election night in 2008 in Grant Park in Chicago, where Obama’s career began. | Jae C. Hong/AP

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