Becoming the Obamas: Critical Approaches to Barack & Michelle Obama’s Memoirs

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
contact email: 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams from My Father (1995). Praised by Toni Morrison and Philip Roth, Obama’s memoir explores his life up to his admission to Harvard Law School in 1988. More recently, 2018 saw the publication of Michelle Obama’s best-selling memoir Becoming, which is the story of her life up through the end of her tenure as first lady. This panel seeks papers that critically explore the major prose works by Barack and Michelle Obama: Becoming, Dreams From My Father, and The Audacity of Hope.

Questions to consider include, but are not limited to:

How do the Obamas tell their story? What literary devices and/or rhetorical strategies do they employ in their respective works?

How are their memoirs rooted in the African American literary tradition? Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man clearly influenced Barack Obama’s Dreams, yet who else did Obama invoke in telling his story? Who, if any, are Michelle Obama’s literary influences in Becoming?

How do the Obamas extend or complicate the specific category of Black Autobiography? How do their texts compare/contrast with other memoirs – either contemporary or canonical texts?

How does Becoming compare/contrast with Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father?

How do the Obamas depict race/racism and/or intersectionality in their texts?

How can we teach Becoming, Dreams From My Father, and/or The Audacity of Hope to our twenty-first century students?

All submissions that explore the life writings of Barack and/or Michelle Obama will be considered. They do not need to be comparative in scope, though they can be. To submit to this panel, please upload your 250 word abstract to NEMLA's submission portal at https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/Login.