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First lady has harvested anecdotes about South Lawn garden for book

From the beginning, Michelle Obama's kitchen garden has been an overachiever, churning out more peppers, parsley and eggplant than expected, and generating interest that -- yes, really -- crosses oceans.

Now, the first lady has added a 271-page book to her gardening resume, and Americans can read all about the planting misses that came with the hits, get tips on gardening at home, and, Mrs. Obama hopes, draw some inspiration that just might change their lives. Oh, and if it happens to help her husband's re-election campaign, that would be nice, too.

Lofty goals for a book about a garden.

In "American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America," Mrs. Obama holds out the raised vegetable beds on the South Lawn as "an expression of my hopes" for the nation's children. "Just as each seed we plant has the potential to become something extraordinary, so does every child," she writes.

The $30 book, released today by Crown Publishers, traces how a city kid from the South Side of Chicago who became a working mother and then a political spouse found herself fretting on that first planting day, March 20, 2009, about whether an L-shaped stretch of soil would prove fertile ground for a national conversation "about the food we eat, the lives we lead, and how all of that affects our children."

The book's release comes with a flurry of media appearances. There are also bits of personal history in the book: Mrs. Obama's father worked as a boy on one of the vegetable trucks that would deliver produce to neighborhoods, and had a reputation for sneaking pieces of fruit. Her mother's family had a plot in a neighborhood victory garden on the corner of an alley, and the kids had to eat their vegetables or go to bed without supper.

It is a tradition for first ladies to use books to advance their causes. Hillary Clinton wrote the best-seller "It Takes a Village," about the importance of community in raising children; and Laura Bush collaborated with daughter Jenna on a picture book about a reluctant reader, with "Read All About It!"

This is Michelle Obama's first book. She got no advance payment, and plans to donate all her proceeds to the National Park Foundation for programs that promote gardening and healthy eating, and to help care for the White House garden.