- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Books about new first lady Michelle Obama are already on bookshelves worldwide in the early days of the Obama administration, and one dedicated solely to Mrs. Obama’s “iconic” style is set for release this spring.

In addition to two unauthorized biographies and the forthcoming “Michelle Style,” two others written for children, “Michelle Obama: Meet the First Lady” by David Bergen Brophy and “Michelle Obama” by David Colbert “are selling really well,” says Mary Ellen Keating, a spokesperson for Barnes and Noble Booksellers.

“There has been international fascination. I have received calls from all over the world,” says Liza Mundy who wrote “Michelle: A Biography.” Ms. Mundy’s book had Dutch, French, German and Norwegian editions ready for publication on Inauguration Day.

“The most exciting thing for me is that my book has been sold to 12 foreign publishers,” says Liz Lightfoot, whose book “Michelle Obama: First Lady of Hope” was published in late November. “It’s been requested everywhere from Macedonia to Korea.”

Ms. Lightfoot’s biography of Mrs. Obama is the No. 1 best-seller for the book’s publisher, Globe Pequot Press.

Ms. Lightfoot, an Obama supporter, says she knew nothing about Michelle Robinson Obama prior to beginning her research but thinks “she represents the American dream. I think she’s a remarkable role model.”

According to Ms. Lightfoot’s book, Mrs. Obama’s formative years were shadowed by racial tensions.

The author, who completed her research for the book before the presidential campaign ended, says she talked to many of Mrs. Obama’s Princeton classmates. Mrs. Obama attended the Ivy League institution in the mid-1980s, when there were few black students.

“She felt like an outsider,” Ms. Lightfoot says. “She wrote her thesis about her experience. Most of her classmates agree that Princeton and the world has changed since then.”

Despite being somewhat anti-establishment, Mrs. Obama has never been radical in her views. “She is actually very traditional,” says the author. “She sees her role as mother first. She has always used her husband’s last name.”

Ms. Lightfoot says that she expects the new first lady to help other women trying to balance work and family because this was a challenge for Mrs. Obama in the early years of her marriage.

“I also think she will help military families. She is very passionate about that,” she says. “She understands what it is like to have a spouse who is away all the time.”

Ms. Mundy, a Washington Post reporter, takes a more dispassionate look at Mrs. Obama for her biography.

“I became interested in her last winter when she started to be somewhat controversial and polarizing,” she recalls. “I found her to be an unusually interesting political spouse.”

Ms. Mundy, who attended Princeton with Mrs. Obama but did not know her, believes the first lady’s life mirrors the social change that has transformed America over the last half century. “She was born in 1964 when civil rights legislation was signed,” she notes. “Tracking her life is like a lesson in social history. Her life is a landscape of so many opportunities that have opened for African-Americans and women.”

Interest in Mrs. Obama’s wardrobe is nothing new, Ms. Mundy says. “Her classmates at Princeton said she was a careful dresser when everyone else was wearing sweat pants,” she reports. “Her colleagues at her law firm and her husband also noticed that she was always put together. ”

The author says the future first lady’s first purchase after saving baby-sitting money as a teenager was a new Coach purse.

This May, HarperCollins will release “Michelle Style” by Mandi Norwood, a book chock full of style tips, design sketches and inside information about Mrs. Obama’s fashion choices - just in case the public is not reading enough about them in the monthly glossies.

“She steps into the spotlight with a distinct headstart in that she has a natural flair for fashion and an obvious enjoyment of it,” says Ms. Norwood. “Icons have a strong sense of individuality, and Mrs Obama is certainly an individual spirit.”

Ms. Norwood sees Mrs. Obama as a 21st century style icon like former first lady Jackie Kennedy and silver screen swan Audrey Hepburn, but with her own twist.

“She’s utterly 2009, from the way she dresses, which is a mix of designer and chain store, to the way she views herself in the world which is a mix of corporate, community and family,” Ms. Norwood says.”

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