Please wait while we process your payment
If you don't see it, please check your spam folder. Sometimes it can end up there.
Don’t have an account?
Create Your Account
Sign up for your FREE 7-day trial
Already have an account? Log in
Choose Your Plan
$4.99/month + tax
$24.99/year + tax
Save over 50% with a SparkNotes PLUS Annual Plan!
for a group?
Get Annual Plans at a discount when you buy 2 or more!
$18.74 /subscription + tax
Subtotal $37.48 + tax
on 2-49 accounts
on 50-99 accounts
Want 100 or more?
for a customized plan.
You'll be billed after your free trial ends.
7-Day Free Trial
Renews December 18, 2023
December 11, 2023
Discounts (applied to next billing)
This is not a valid promo code.
(one code per order)
Annual Plan - Group Discount
SparkNotes Plus subscription is $4.99/month or $24.99/year as selected above. The free trial period is the first 7 days of your subscription. TO CANCEL YOUR SUBSCRIPTION AND AVOID BEING CHARGED, YOU MUST CANCEL BEFORE THE END OF THE FREE TRIAL PERIOD. You may cancel your subscription on your Subscription and Billing page or contact Customer Support at email@example.com. Your subscription will continue automatically once the free trial period is over. Free trial is available to new customers only.
For the next 7 days, you'll have access to awesome PLUS stuff like AP English test prep, No Fear Shakespeare translations and audio, a note-taking tool, personalized dashboard, & much more!
You’ve successfully purchased a group discount. Your group members can use the joining link below to redeem their group membership. You'll also receive an email with the link.
Members will be prompted to log in or create an account to redeem their group membership.
Thanks for creating a SparkNotes account! Continue to start your free trial.
Your PLUS subscription has expired
With memories still raw of a neighborhood fire that claimed the lives of three children, Fraser Robinson allows Craig to conduct drills on how to get Fraser to safety in the event of an emergency. Realistic about the burdens his illness places on others, Michelle’s father values opportunities to be useful. He serves as a precinct captain for the Democratic party and in that capacity regularly makes the rounds of the neighborhood, often with a reluctant Michelle in tow. Doing rounds with her father helps Michelle become more outgoing.
Michelle’s grandfather Southside helps, too, by hosting lively family gatherings at his house. He also buys Michelle a dog that stays with him but is officially hers. Michelle’s grandfather Dandy, her father’s father, is a more intimidating figure. He shouts a great deal—at the television, at idle young men in his neighborhood, and at his wife, LaVaughn. Michelle is the only one in the family to regularly argue back at Dandy. It bothers her that LaVaughn, by day a successful bookstore manager, should at night meekly submit to being yelled at. Some of Dandy’s anger comes from bitterness over unfulfilled dreams of college, and over jobs he was denied at a time when Black men were often excluded from labor unions.
During a visit at Dandy and LaVaughn’s, one of Michelle’s cousins asks why she talks “like a white girl.” Michelle’s parents, and Dandy, too, have always insisted that she use proper English and enunciate. Now, her way of speaking and presenting herself is raising suspicions in others. Someday, when her husband is elected president, he will face similar questions.
As better-off families move out of Michelle’s neighborhood, her school struggles to maintain instructional quality. Marian Robinson serves tirelessly on the PTA, raising funds for school equipment, hosting dinners for teachers, and backing the principal’s plans to create a multi-grade program for gifted students. When Michelle is placed in the program, she excels. At home, Michelle’s mother keeps a clean house, finds budget-conscious ways for the family to celebrate Christmas, and wisely lets Craig find his own way in a relationship with a girl. Every spring, as Michelle learns years later, Marian entertains thoughts of leaving Fraser, and every spring she puts those thoughts aside. She will stay in the same house another forty years, long after her husband has passed away.
At fourteen, Michelle is starting to enter womanhood. She spends less time with Southside and more time with two sisters who are her best friends. Together, the three of them try on clothes and learn how to appreciate boys and attract their attention. Another friend helps Michelle arrange her first kiss, with a boy the friend knows from choir. Michelle also learns that her body can attract unwanted looks and comments from men. Her parents turn the upstairs back porch into an enclosed space and reassign bedrooms so that Craig and Michelle each get a room to themselves. Gradually, Michelle is becoming more and more her own person.
These chapters demonstrate a core principle of the Robinson family that helps shape Michelle in childhood: a person’s time is a gift to be given to others in service of a greater good. Both Fraser and Marian find ways to contribute to and support their community in an attempt to uphold and improve it. When she accompanies her father on his visits to community members as Democratic precinct chair, Michelle sees that personal connections with voters have a positive impact on local politics. Though young Michelle doesn’t enjoy the visits, during which her father takes extra time to talk with voters about their personal and family issues as well as their community-related concerns, she understands her father’s commitment to fixing problems. Meanwhile, as wealthy and white families continue to leave the neighborhood, her mother demonstrates the importance of education as she heavily invests time in improving Bryn Mawr, their neighborhood school. This lays the foundation of Michelle’s later belief that education is one of the most important factors in improving people’s lives. Her parents’ actions also show her that investing time in the community is an effective way to ensure it will best serve its residents.
Obama also illustrates the struggle with Black identity that can arise from being well-educated and therefore perceived as “other.” When Michelle is about ten years old, her distant cousin asks her why she talks like a white person. Michelle’s insistence that she doesn’t shows her mortification at being singled out as “other” within her own culture. She understands, however, that her family has encouraged this otherness in an attempt to elevate Michelle and Craig beyond their middle-class upbringing. Though Obama presents this one instance in her childhood, she connects this racial-identity struggle to the one she and her husband will later face during his presidential campaign. The idea that one’s appearance and actions must align to be considered trustworthy plays out on a smaller scale in this scene in which she is questioned for her use of proper diction. Here, she combats the problem by falling silent and hiding any hint of privilege so as not to be rejected, but in doing so, she excludes herself.