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The Light We Carry

Overcoming in Uncertain Times

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Large Print
$35.00 US
6.08"W x 9.19"H x 0.91"D  
On sale Nov 15, 2022 | 432 Pages | 978-0-593-67790-2
| Grades 9-12 + AP/IB
#1 NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER • In an inspiring follow-up to her acclaimed memoir Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today’s highly uncertain world.
 
There may be no tidy solutions or pithy answers to life’s big challenges, but Michelle Obama believes that we can all locate and lean on a set of tools to help us better navigate change and remain steady within flux. In The Light We Carry, she opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering the questions many of us wrestle with: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much?
 
Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles—the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.
 
“When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it,” writes Michelle Obama. A rewarding blend of powerful stories and profound advice that will ignite conversation, The Light We Carry inspires readers to examine their own lives, identify their sources of gladness, and connect meaningfully in a turbulent world.
© Miller Mobley
Michelle Obama served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Mrs. Obama started her career as an attorney at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama. She later worked in the Chicago mayor’s office, at the University of Chicago, and at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Mrs. Obama also founded the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an organization that prepares young people for careers in public service. She is the author of the #1 global bestseller Becoming and the #1 national bestseller American Grown. The Obamas currently live in Washington, D.C., and have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. View titles by Michelle Obama
Introduction
 
At some point when I was a child, my father started using a cane to keep himself balanced when he walked. I don’t remember exactly when it showed up in our home on the South Side of Chicago—I was maybe four or five years old at the time—but suddenly it was there, slim and sturdy and made of a smooth dark wood. The cane was an early concession to multiple sclerosis, the disease that had given my father a severe left-legged limp. Slowly and silently and probably long before he received a formal diagnosis, MS was undermining his body, eating away at his central nervous system and weakening his legs as he went about his everyday business: working at the city’s water filtration plant, running a household with my mom, trying to raise good kids.
 
The cane helped my dad get himself up the stairs to our apartment or down a city block. In the evenings, he would set it against the arm of his recliner and seemingly forget about it as he watched sports on TV, or listened to jazz on the stereo, or pulled me onto his lap to ask about my day at school. I was fascinated by the cane’s curved handle, the black rubber tip at its end, the hollow clatter it made when it fell to the floor. Sometimes I’d try to use it, imitating my father’s motions as I hobbled around our living room, hoping to feel what it was like to walk in his shoes. But I was too small and the cane was too big, and so instead I would incorporate it as a stage prop in my games of pretending.
 
As we say it in my family, that cane symbolized nothing. It was just a tool, the same way my mother’s spatula was a tool in the kitchen, or my grandfather’s hammer got used any time he came over to fix a broken shelf or curtain rod. It was utilitarian, protected, something to lean on when needed.
 
What we didn’t really want to acknowledge was the fact that my father’s condition was gradually growing worse, his body quietly turning on itself. Dad knew it. Mom knew it. My older brother, Craig, and I were just kids at the time, but kids are no dummies, and so even as our father still played catch with us in the backyard and showed up at our piano recitals and Little League games, we knew it, too. We were starting to understand that Dad’s illness left us more vulnerable as a family, less protected. In an emergency, it’d be harder for him to leap into action and save us from a fire or an intruder. We were learning that life was not in our control.
 
Every so often, too, the cane would fail our father. He would misjudge a step, or his foot would catch a lump in the rug, and suddenly he’d stumble and fall. And in that single freeze-frame instant, with his body in midair, we would catch sight of everything we were hoping not to see—his vulnerability, our helplessness, the uncertainty and harder times ahead.
 
The sound of a full-grown man hitting the floor is thunderous—a thing you never forget. It shook our tiny apartment like an earthquake, sending us rushing to his aid.
 
“Fraser, be careful!” my mom would say, as if her words could undo what had happened. Craig and I would leverage our young bodies to help our dad back to his feet, scrambling to retrieve his cane and eyeglasses from wherever they’d flown, as if our speed in getting him upright might erase the image of his fall. As if any one of us could fix anything. These moments left me feeling worried and afraid, realizing what we stood to lose and how easily it could happen.
 
Usually, my father would just laugh the whole thing off, downplaying the fall, signaling that it was okay to smile or crack a joke. There seemed to be an unspoken pact between us: We needed to let these moments go. In our home, laughter was yet another well-worked tool.
 
Now that I’m an adult, what I understand about multiple sclerosis is this: The disease impacts millions of people worldwide. MS trips up the immune system in such a way that it starts attacking from within, mistaking friend for foe, self for other. It disrupts the central nervous system, stripping away the protective casing from neural fibers called axons, leaving their delicate strands exposed.
 
If MS caused my father pain, he didn’t talk about it. If the indignities of his disability dimmed his spirit, he rarely showed it. I don’t know if he ever took falls when we weren’t around—at the water-filtration plant, or walking in or out of the barbershop—though it stand to reason he did, at least occasionally. Nonetheless, years passed. My dad went to work, came home, kept smiling. Maybe this was a form of denial. Maybe it was simply the code he chose to live by. You fall, you get up, you carry on.

I realize now that my father’s disability gave me an early and important lesson about what it feels like to be different, to move through this world marked by something you can’t much control. Even if we weren’t dwelling on it, that differentness was always there. My family carried it. We worried about things that other families didn’t seem to worry about. Going out, we quietly sized up the obstacles, calculating the energy it would take for my father to cross a parking lot or navigate his way through the bleachers at Craig’s basketball games. We measured distance and elevation differently. We viewed sets of stairs, icy sidewalks, and high curbs differently. We assessed parks and museums for how many benches they had, places where a tired body could rest. Everywhere we went, we weighed the risks and looked for small efficiencies for my dad. We counted every step.
 
And when one tool stopped working for him, its utility dwarfed by the strength of his disease, we’d go out and find another—the cane replaced by a pair of forearm crutches, the crutches replaced eventually by a motorized cart and a specially equipped van that was packed with levers and hydraulics to help make up for what his body could no longer do.
 
Did my father love any of these things, or think they solved all his problems? Not at all. But did he need them? Yes, absolutely. That’s what tools are for. They help keep us upright and balanced, better able to coexist with uncertainty. They help us deal with flux, to manage when life feels out of control. And they help us continue onward, even while in discomfort, even as we live with our strands exposed.
 
I have been thinking a lot about these things—about what we carry, what keeps us upright in the face of uncertainty, and how we locate and lean on our tools, especially during times of chaos. I’ve been thinking, too, about what it means to be different. I’m struck by how so many of us wrestle with feeling different, and by how central our perceptions of differentness continue to be in our broader conversation about what sort of world we want to live in, who we trust, who we elevate, and who we leave behind.
 
These are complicated questions, of course, with complicated answers. And “being different” can be defined in many ways. But it’s worth saying on behalf of those who feel it: There’s nothing easy about finding your way through a world loaded with obstacles that others can’t or don’t see. When you are different, you can feel as if you’re operating with a different map, a different set of navigational challenges, than those around you. Sometimes, you feel like you have no map at all. Your differentness will often precede you into a room; people see it before they see you. Which leave you with the task of overcoming. And overcoming is, almost by definition, draining.
 
As a result—as a matter of survival, really—you learn, as my family did, to be watchful. You figure out how to guard your energy, to count every step. And at the heart of this lies a head-spinning paradox: Being different conditions you toward cautiousness, even as it demands that you be bold.
Discussion Guide for The Light We Carry

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

  • NOMINEE | 2023
    NAACP Image Award
  • NOMINEE | 2023
    NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work
“A deeply personal and hugely inspirational exploration of ‘what keeps us upright in the face of uncertainty . . .’ In other words, perfect for now.”O Quarterly

“A joy to read.”Los Angeles Times

“Reaffirming . . . What makes the book special is that it builds on parts of Becoming, and [Michelle] Obama serves as mentor and guide.”The Washington Post

“Obama’s road map for uncertain times resonates in ways that other self-help books do not. . . . Through her stories, experiences and thoughts, we’re finding the light with her.”The New York Times  

“[Michelle Obama’s] clear-eyed confidence is a model for anyone searching for reason, strength, and optimism in tough times.”—Lucy Feldman, Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2022

“Miraculously, these self-help bromides don’t come across as cloying, mainly because Obama is so disarmingly honest about her fears, failures and all-too-human flaws. . . . You can’t argue with the hard-fought wisdom of such an accomplished woman.”The Guardian

“Though Obama makes it clear she still struggles with plenty of self-doubt and doesn’t have all the answers, she provides a pretty thorough road map to living a fuller, kinder, better life.”USA Today

“A heartening pep talk from the former first lady.”Kirkus Reviews

“In The Light We Carry, Obama shares ideas for quelling what roils our stomachs and ways to move forward. She’s like a big sister whispering in my ear, ‘You are enough.’”Philadelphia Inquirer

“Encouraging, sometimes funny, always chummy . . . The Light We Carry contains a multitude of other poignant, amusing anecdotes and helpful advice for all types of readers.”BookPage

Praise for Michelle Obama’s Becoming

“A serious work of candid reflection by a singular figure of early-twenty-first-century America . . . Becoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny.”—Isabel Wilkerson, The New York Times Book Review

Becoming is inspirational without trying to be. From the first words, the very warmth that permeates its author emanates from the pages. . . . Becoming manages to be a coming-of-age tale, a love story and a family saga all in one. More importantly, this book is a reminder that America is still a work-in-progress, and that hope can be an action word if we allow it to be. Becoming is a balm that America needs, from a woman America does not yet deserve.”—Angie Thomas, Time

“Deeply personal and refreshingly honest . . . She’s thoughtful, humorous, bracingly revealing, and when it’s time, she does us all the favor of showing us the human side of a man worshipped by so many. . . . It’s human and genuine and welcoming to see the layers of humanity she holds open. . . . Michelle Obama’s story can maybe inspire you to find a path for your own story.”—Shonda Rhimes, Shondaland

“A complex, accomplished life recounted with confidence and candor . . . Every page sparkles with directness and grace.”—Douglas Brinkley, The Boston Globe

About

#1 NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLER • In an inspiring follow-up to her acclaimed memoir Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today’s highly uncertain world.
 
There may be no tidy solutions or pithy answers to life’s big challenges, but Michelle Obama believes that we can all locate and lean on a set of tools to help us better navigate change and remain steady within flux. In The Light We Carry, she opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering the questions many of us wrestle with: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much?
 
Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles—the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humor, candor, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.
 
“When we are able to recognize our own light, we become empowered to use it,” writes Michelle Obama. A rewarding blend of powerful stories and profound advice that will ignite conversation, The Light We Carry inspires readers to examine their own lives, identify their sources of gladness, and connect meaningfully in a turbulent world.

Author

© Miller Mobley
Michelle Obama served as First Lady of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Mrs. Obama started her career as an attorney at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she met her future husband, Barack Obama. She later worked in the Chicago mayor’s office, at the University of Chicago, and at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Mrs. Obama also founded the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an organization that prepares young people for careers in public service. She is the author of the #1 global bestseller Becoming and the #1 national bestseller American Grown. The Obamas currently live in Washington, D.C., and have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. View titles by Michelle Obama

Excerpt

Introduction
 
At some point when I was a child, my father started using a cane to keep himself balanced when he walked. I don’t remember exactly when it showed up in our home on the South Side of Chicago—I was maybe four or five years old at the time—but suddenly it was there, slim and sturdy and made of a smooth dark wood. The cane was an early concession to multiple sclerosis, the disease that had given my father a severe left-legged limp. Slowly and silently and probably long before he received a formal diagnosis, MS was undermining his body, eating away at his central nervous system and weakening his legs as he went about his everyday business: working at the city’s water filtration plant, running a household with my mom, trying to raise good kids.
 
The cane helped my dad get himself up the stairs to our apartment or down a city block. In the evenings, he would set it against the arm of his recliner and seemingly forget about it as he watched sports on TV, or listened to jazz on the stereo, or pulled me onto his lap to ask about my day at school. I was fascinated by the cane’s curved handle, the black rubber tip at its end, the hollow clatter it made when it fell to the floor. Sometimes I’d try to use it, imitating my father’s motions as I hobbled around our living room, hoping to feel what it was like to walk in his shoes. But I was too small and the cane was too big, and so instead I would incorporate it as a stage prop in my games of pretending.
 
As we say it in my family, that cane symbolized nothing. It was just a tool, the same way my mother’s spatula was a tool in the kitchen, or my grandfather’s hammer got used any time he came over to fix a broken shelf or curtain rod. It was utilitarian, protected, something to lean on when needed.
 
What we didn’t really want to acknowledge was the fact that my father’s condition was gradually growing worse, his body quietly turning on itself. Dad knew it. Mom knew it. My older brother, Craig, and I were just kids at the time, but kids are no dummies, and so even as our father still played catch with us in the backyard and showed up at our piano recitals and Little League games, we knew it, too. We were starting to understand that Dad’s illness left us more vulnerable as a family, less protected. In an emergency, it’d be harder for him to leap into action and save us from a fire or an intruder. We were learning that life was not in our control.
 
Every so often, too, the cane would fail our father. He would misjudge a step, or his foot would catch a lump in the rug, and suddenly he’d stumble and fall. And in that single freeze-frame instant, with his body in midair, we would catch sight of everything we were hoping not to see—his vulnerability, our helplessness, the uncertainty and harder times ahead.
 
The sound of a full-grown man hitting the floor is thunderous—a thing you never forget. It shook our tiny apartment like an earthquake, sending us rushing to his aid.
 
“Fraser, be careful!” my mom would say, as if her words could undo what had happened. Craig and I would leverage our young bodies to help our dad back to his feet, scrambling to retrieve his cane and eyeglasses from wherever they’d flown, as if our speed in getting him upright might erase the image of his fall. As if any one of us could fix anything. These moments left me feeling worried and afraid, realizing what we stood to lose and how easily it could happen.
 
Usually, my father would just laugh the whole thing off, downplaying the fall, signaling that it was okay to smile or crack a joke. There seemed to be an unspoken pact between us: We needed to let these moments go. In our home, laughter was yet another well-worked tool.
 
Now that I’m an adult, what I understand about multiple sclerosis is this: The disease impacts millions of people worldwide. MS trips up the immune system in such a way that it starts attacking from within, mistaking friend for foe, self for other. It disrupts the central nervous system, stripping away the protective casing from neural fibers called axons, leaving their delicate strands exposed.
 
If MS caused my father pain, he didn’t talk about it. If the indignities of his disability dimmed his spirit, he rarely showed it. I don’t know if he ever took falls when we weren’t around—at the water-filtration plant, or walking in or out of the barbershop—though it stand to reason he did, at least occasionally. Nonetheless, years passed. My dad went to work, came home, kept smiling. Maybe this was a form of denial. Maybe it was simply the code he chose to live by. You fall, you get up, you carry on.

I realize now that my father’s disability gave me an early and important lesson about what it feels like to be different, to move through this world marked by something you can’t much control. Even if we weren’t dwelling on it, that differentness was always there. My family carried it. We worried about things that other families didn’t seem to worry about. Going out, we quietly sized up the obstacles, calculating the energy it would take for my father to cross a parking lot or navigate his way through the bleachers at Craig’s basketball games. We measured distance and elevation differently. We viewed sets of stairs, icy sidewalks, and high curbs differently. We assessed parks and museums for how many benches they had, places where a tired body could rest. Everywhere we went, we weighed the risks and looked for small efficiencies for my dad. We counted every step.
 
And when one tool stopped working for him, its utility dwarfed by the strength of his disease, we’d go out and find another—the cane replaced by a pair of forearm crutches, the crutches replaced eventually by a motorized cart and a specially equipped van that was packed with levers and hydraulics to help make up for what his body could no longer do.
 
Did my father love any of these things, or think they solved all his problems? Not at all. But did he need them? Yes, absolutely. That’s what tools are for. They help keep us upright and balanced, better able to coexist with uncertainty. They help us deal with flux, to manage when life feels out of control. And they help us continue onward, even while in discomfort, even as we live with our strands exposed.
 
I have been thinking a lot about these things—about what we carry, what keeps us upright in the face of uncertainty, and how we locate and lean on our tools, especially during times of chaos. I’ve been thinking, too, about what it means to be different. I’m struck by how so many of us wrestle with feeling different, and by how central our perceptions of differentness continue to be in our broader conversation about what sort of world we want to live in, who we trust, who we elevate, and who we leave behind.
 
These are complicated questions, of course, with complicated answers. And “being different” can be defined in many ways. But it’s worth saying on behalf of those who feel it: There’s nothing easy about finding your way through a world loaded with obstacles that others can’t or don’t see. When you are different, you can feel as if you’re operating with a different map, a different set of navigational challenges, than those around you. Sometimes, you feel like you have no map at all. Your differentness will often precede you into a room; people see it before they see you. Which leave you with the task of overcoming. And overcoming is, almost by definition, draining.
 
As a result—as a matter of survival, really—you learn, as my family did, to be watchful. You figure out how to guard your energy, to count every step. And at the heart of this lies a head-spinning paradox: Being different conditions you toward cautiousness, even as it demands that you be bold.

Guides

Discussion Guide for The Light We Carry

Provides questions, discussion topics, suggested reading lists, introductions and/or author Q&As, which are intended to enhance reading groups’ experiences.

(Please note: the guide displayed here is the most recently uploaded version; while unlikely, any page citation discrepancies between the guide and book is likely due to pagination differences between a book’s different formats.)

Awards

  • NOMINEE | 2023
    NAACP Image Award
  • NOMINEE | 2023
    NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work

Praise

“A deeply personal and hugely inspirational exploration of ‘what keeps us upright in the face of uncertainty . . .’ In other words, perfect for now.”O Quarterly

“A joy to read.”Los Angeles Times

“Reaffirming . . . What makes the book special is that it builds on parts of Becoming, and [Michelle] Obama serves as mentor and guide.”The Washington Post

“Obama’s road map for uncertain times resonates in ways that other self-help books do not. . . . Through her stories, experiences and thoughts, we’re finding the light with her.”The New York Times  

“[Michelle Obama’s] clear-eyed confidence is a model for anyone searching for reason, strength, and optimism in tough times.”—Lucy Feldman, Time’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2022

“Miraculously, these self-help bromides don’t come across as cloying, mainly because Obama is so disarmingly honest about her fears, failures and all-too-human flaws. . . . You can’t argue with the hard-fought wisdom of such an accomplished woman.”The Guardian

“Though Obama makes it clear she still struggles with plenty of self-doubt and doesn’t have all the answers, she provides a pretty thorough road map to living a fuller, kinder, better life.”USA Today

“A heartening pep talk from the former first lady.”Kirkus Reviews

“In The Light We Carry, Obama shares ideas for quelling what roils our stomachs and ways to move forward. She’s like a big sister whispering in my ear, ‘You are enough.’”Philadelphia Inquirer

“Encouraging, sometimes funny, always chummy . . . The Light We Carry contains a multitude of other poignant, amusing anecdotes and helpful advice for all types of readers.”BookPage

Praise for Michelle Obama’s Becoming

“A serious work of candid reflection by a singular figure of early-twenty-first-century America . . . Becoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny.”—Isabel Wilkerson, The New York Times Book Review

Becoming is inspirational without trying to be. From the first words, the very warmth that permeates its author emanates from the pages. . . . Becoming manages to be a coming-of-age tale, a love story and a family saga all in one. More importantly, this book is a reminder that America is still a work-in-progress, and that hope can be an action word if we allow it to be. Becoming is a balm that America needs, from a woman America does not yet deserve.”—Angie Thomas, Time

“Deeply personal and refreshingly honest . . . She’s thoughtful, humorous, bracingly revealing, and when it’s time, she does us all the favor of showing us the human side of a man worshipped by so many. . . . It’s human and genuine and welcoming to see the layers of humanity she holds open. . . . Michelle Obama’s story can maybe inspire you to find a path for your own story.”—Shonda Rhimes, Shondaland

“A complex, accomplished life recounted with confidence and candor . . . Every page sparkles with directness and grace.”—Douglas Brinkley, The Boston Globe

PRH Education High School Collections

All reading communities should contain protected time for the sake of reading. Independent reading practices emphasize the process of making meaning through reading, not an end product. The school culture (teachers, administration, etc.) should affirm this daily practice time as inherently important instructional time for all readers. (NCTE, 2019)   The Penguin Random House High

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PRH Education Translanguaging Collections

Translanguaging is a communicative practice of bilinguals and multilinguals, that is, it is a practice whereby bilinguals and multilinguals use their entire linguistic repertoire to communicate and make meaning (García, 2009; García, Ibarra Johnson, & Seltzer, 2017)   It is through that lens that we have partnered with teacher educators and bilingual education experts, Drs.

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PRH Education Classroom Libraries

“Books are a students’ passport to entering and actively participating in a global society with the empathy, compassion, and knowledge it takes to become the problem solvers the world needs.” –Laura Robb   Research shows that reading and literacy directly impacts students’ academic success and personal growth. To help promote the importance of daily independent

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Announcing the Michelle Obama Award for Memoir

We are honored to announce the Penguin Random House Creative Writing Awards’ Michelle Obama Award for Memoir. In recognition of Michelle Obama’s long-standing commitment to mentorship and education, as well as her inspiring leadership in encouraging young people to discover the power of telling their own stories, this award grants a college scholarship of $10,000 to one

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Michelle Obama’s The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, Publishing November 15, 2022

We’re delighted to announce that Penguin Random House will publish former First Lady Michelle Obama’s The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, available November 15, 2022. In an inspiring follow-up to her critically acclaimed, #1 bestselling memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today’s highly

Read more