Review: Opening My Eyes Underwater by Ashley Woodfolk

Opening My Eyes Underwater: Essays on Hope, Humanity, and Our Hero Michelle Obama by Ashley Woodfolk cover shows cartoon layers of water in pink, orange, yellow, purple, dark blue, light blue, and dark green.

Opening My Eyes Underwater: Essays on Hope, Humanity, and Our Hero Michelle Obama
Ashley Woodfolk
Feiwel & Friends
Published September 27, 2022

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Opening My Eyes Underwater

Inspired by the life and quotations of former first lady Michelle Obama, OPENING MY EYES UNDERWATER is a collection of essays penned by bestselling author Ashley Woodfolk.

In essays about bullying, heartbreak, racism, and confidence, Woodfolk taps into her past to share those stories that made her who she is today. She seamlessly weaves in parallel experiences that both she and Mrs. Obama have faced in their separate childhoods as well as their adult lives. Open, searing, and honest, these are stories that will help readers feel seen. Readers who are growing and learning as they move forward through life’s triumphs and pitfalls will undoubtedly gravitate to and find comfort within its pages.

Opening My Eyes Underwater on Goodreads

My Review

Ashley Woodfolk is an author whose books I’ve been wanting to read. When I came across this book, the concept of it really hooked me. Essays on hope? Michelle Obama, you say? Yes, please. I’m in.

I always forget that reading a collection of shorter pieces, whether essays or short stories, is something I really enjoy. It’s nice to be able to read a chunk of something and pause in the reading to think about that piece as a whole. It’s so different than consuming an entire novel or nonfiction book and then reflecting on the entire thing.

These essays are loosely connected– several talk about the author’s experiences with panic attacks and anxiety, especially about school and college. At the start of each essay is a page with a quote from Michelle Obama. The quotes are well-chosen and inspirational just on their own. In the essay that follows, the author explores some of her own life experiences and reflects on experiences Michelle Obama has described about her own life, expanding on the ideas from the quote.

The essays are thoughtful and encouraging, but also pretty real. Ashley Woodfolk wrote the book during the days of the Covid-19 pandemic, and she isn’t shy about how hard that process or those experiences were. But she also calls us toward hope again and again. She reminds readers of their value as human beings and members of the same world in which people like Michelle Obama live and thrive.

I really enjoyed the book and found it to be a really easy read. I think readers looking for some encouraging words, especially as they transition from high school to college, will find a lot of inspiration for life in these pages.

Opening My Eyes Underwater on Bookshop

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Michelle Obama is a Black woman and the former First Lady of the US. The book includes some biographical information about her as well as quotes from speeches she’s given and things posted to her social media accounts. Ashley Woodfolk is also a Black woman and identifies as Queer.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content
References to romantic relationships that the author was in. At one point she describes a boyfriend who continually pushed past her boundaries. She reflects back on that now as an unhealthy and unsafe relationship.

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
The author describes what it’s like when she has a panic attack. She also references George Floyd’s murder by police. She discusses a job at a clothing store at which many of the employees stole merchandise. Though she herself did not steal, she uses this as an example of having personal values and sticking to them even when others aren’t doing what you have committed to do for yourself.

Drug Content

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of OPENING MY EYES UNDERWATER in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

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About Kasey

Reads things. Writes things. Fluent in sarcasm. Willful optimist. Cat companion, chocolate connoisseur, coffee drinker. There are some who call me Mom.

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