This story has been a long time coming, having spent some time in Chicago looking at her childhood and early working life. Probably my favorite anecdote about Michelle came from her mother, Marian Robinson. The family lived in a one bedroom apartment, part of a little brick bungalow on a tree-lined street that belonged to a relative. The dining room was split with temporary partitions, creating tiny rooms for Michelle and her brother Craig and a little work space where they did their homework. Michelle’s mom still lives in the same house, just a few blocks from Michelle’s elementary school.
Learning how to read as a little girl, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson would throw her books across the floor of her tiny room. “I just let her be, I knew she had to do it her way,” said Robinson, who often joked, “She has a temper but we decided to keep her any way.” Michelle was competitive with Craig, her senior by 16 months and, according the Marian, the most easy-going child ever. When he skipped second grade, so did Michelle. When he went to Princeton, so did she. At the same time, while Craig went to Princeton on a basketball scholarship, Michelle refused to play in to what she considered stereotypes and was adamant that if she went to Princeton it would be on her own terms. And she did.
Also, this story includes my all-time favorite Michelle quote ever:
Asked in an interview about being the breadwinner of the family, Michelle is shocked by the notion. “Me? No! Barack had like four jobs, always,” she laughs. “No really. Barack’s a hustler. I shouldn’t say hustler, but he’s a humper in terms of work.”