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Michelle Obama begins Portland visit with book club at Broadway Books

In January, the owners of Broadway Books in Northeast Portland were contacted by the Crown Publishing Group. One of its authors was touring to promote her memoir; could she discuss it with a local book club at the store?

Kim Bissell and Sally McPherson couldn’t say no to Michelle Obama.

“The hardest part was keeping it a secret,” Bissell said Tuesday afternoon as she awaited Obama’s arrival, just hours before the former first lady was to speak at the Moda Center as part of her “Becoming” tour. Her sold-out appearance was rescheduled from Feb. 9 because of a winter storm warning.

McPherson said Broadway Books was asked to find an established book club to meet Obama. McPherson reached out to a woman she knew who was in a book club that she felt “would represent us well”: Its members were young women with diverse backgrounds. For their January title, they’d chosen “Becoming,” published in 2018.

Tuesday, 14 of them – white, black, Asian and Latina – sat in a circle inside Broadway Books, which had closed for the day. Some were native Oregonians; others, immigrants. They shared which parts of Obama’s memoir had resonated most with them: Her path through several careers, from law to municipal government to the nonprofit sector. Her fleshing out of her identity. Her relationship with the parents who sacrificed much for her and her older brother, Craig Robinson, onetime head men’s basketball coach at Oregon State University. Her work to invest in her community. Her stories of motherhood.

One woman spoke through tears as she talked about what she saw as the book’s foundational theme: family. Obama replied as if she were speaking to a friend: “You’re getting me, girl.” She said a few moments later that she has often used the story

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