A revealing new bio of Michelle Obama

Unless she follows the lead of Hillary Clinton and runs for public office, something she says she will not do, we may never see what Michelle Obama can do on her own.

The rest of her life will be spent on charitable boards, giving speeches and engaging in different forms of public activism, if she wants it.

That’s unfair, but it’s the complicated lot of a first lady. Their true value is often known only within their marriage and family. They never have the chance to test their abilities in the same arena as men, and those who have tried to break out of the traditional mold, such asEleanor Roosevelt (and Hillary Clinton), often have been attacked and caricatured.

That makes writing about first ladies a challenge for any biographer. But in Michelle Obama: A Life (***½ out of four), Peter Slevin, a former Washington Post reporter who’s now a professor at Northwestern, has managed to overcome many of the limitations of the genre.

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