Audiobook Review: American Grown

Audiobook Review: American GrownAmerican Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America by Michelle Obama
Narrator: Bill Yossesand, Charlie Brandts, Christeta Comerford, Jim Adams, Michelle Obama, Sam Kass
Length: 4 hrs, 8 mins
Published by Random House Audio on May 29, 2012
Genres: Nonfiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gifted

In April 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama planted a kitchen garden on the White House’s South Lawn. As fresh vegetables, fruit, and herbs sprouted from the ground, this White House Kitchen Garden inspired a new conversation all across the country about the food we feed our families and the impact it has on the health and well-being of our children.

Now, in her first-ever book, American Grown, Mrs. Obama invites you inside the White House Kitchen Garden and shares its inspiring story, from the first planting to the latest harvest. Hear about her worries as a novice gardener – would the new plants even grow? Learn about her struggles and her joys as lettuce, corn, tomatoes, collards and kale, sweet potatoes and rhubarb flourished in the freshly tilled soil. Get an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at every season of the garden’s growth, with striking original photographs that bring its story to life. Try the unique recipes created by White House chefs and made with ingredients just picked from the White House garden. And learn from the White House Garden team about how you can help plant your own backyard, school or community garden.

Mrs. Obama’s journey continues across the nation as she shares the stories of other gardens that have moved and inspired her: Houston office workers who make the sidewalk bloom; a New York City School that created a scented garden for the visually impaired; a North Carolina garden that devotes its entire harvest to those in need; and other stories of communities that are transforming the lives and health of their citizens.

In American Grown, Mrs. Obama tells the story of the White House Kitchen Garden, celebrates the bounty of gardens across our nation, and reminds us all of what we can grow together.

It is perhaps readily apparent that this audiobook lies way outside the scope of my ordinary reading. Way, way outside. However, since it was given to me, I resolved to listen to it, despite my lack of interest. I expected to be bored to tears with gardening tips, but it really wasn’t that bad. Not exactly a glowing commendation, but, considering how little the subject matter has to do with me, that’s fair praise.

The focus does lie primarily on gardening, with tips for how to create and maintain the garden, as well as how to know when to harvest. Amateur gardeners could certainly find this a helpful resource. Along with that, there’s quite a bit of interesting history. The book does feel a bit convoluted, though, with sudden jumps from story to story. This could have been much better organized.

More interesting to me, though, were the parts where gardening took a back seat to Michelle Obama’s work as a whole. This audiobook clearly serves to promote her ideas about gardening, healthy foods and obtaining exercise. Certainly, I am one of those people who could benefit from listening to her, and I admire her passion and that she’s actively working on improving the country.

Though I am not the ideal audience for American Grown, I recommend it highly for those interested in starting a garden or in Michelle Obama’s efforts to create a healthier United States.

Michelle Obama does the bulk of the narration, and I credit her with keeping me from utter boredom. She has a very beautiful voice, and it’s so full of her passion and commitment to her cause. You can hear how much she cares in her narration, and it made everything much more meaningful than it might have been had some other narrator been hired.

The other narrators take only very short sections. They vary widely from White House staff to garden managers to Olympic athletes. All of them were involved with the White House kitchen garden or similar projects, and, while, in theory, getting to hear from these different contributors in their own voices was interesting, it didn’t really pan out that way in practice. Very few of them had what I consider to be pleasant voices to listen to, and I was always grateful when I got back to Obama’s narration.

4 responses to “Audiobook Review: American Grown”

  1. Kayla Beck says:

    You are a better woman than me – I probably could never bring myself to listen to a book I wasn’t remotely interested in. It was a very nice review, though. 🙂

  2. I love Michelle Obama, but I don’t think I’ll be listening to this one.

    Fair review though!

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