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Barack Obama: The Storyby David Maraniss
Synopses & Reviews
From one of our preeminent journalists and modern historians comes the epic story of Barack Obama and the world that created him.
In Barack Obama: The Story, David Maraniss has written a deeply reported generational biography teeming with fresh insights and revealing information, a masterly narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama in the Oval Office, and a trove of letters, journals, diaries, and other documents.
The book unfolds in the small towns of Kansas and the remote villages of western Kenya, following the personal struggles of Obama's white and black ancestors through the swirl of the twentieth century. It is a roots story on a global scale, a saga of constant movement, frustration and accomplishment, strong women and weak men, hopes lost and deferred, people leaving and being left. Disparate family threads converge in the climactic chapters as Obama reaches adulthood and travels from Honolulu to Los Angeles to New York to Chicago, trying to make sense of his past, establish his own identity, and prepare for his political future.
Barack Obama: The Story chronicles as never before the forces that shaped the first black president of the United States and explains why he thinks and acts as he does. Much like the authors classic study of Bill Clinton, First in His Class, this promises to become a seminal book that will redefine a president.
"Between epic framing and prosaic content, a canny portrait of the 44th president through the age of 27 finally emerges from this sprawling biography. Journalist and bestselling author Maraniss (First In His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton) dwells too grandly on the mythic confluence of Kenya and Kansas in Obama's veins; he's more cogent in analyzing the legacy of his father's keen intellect, his mother's self-possession, social conscience, and anthropologist's neutrality, and Obama's cosmopolitan childhood spent bouncing between Hawaii and Indonesia. Deploying exhaustive research, including countless interviews with friends to correct Obama's distorted memoir of youthful racial alienation, the author depicts a well-adjusted, basketball-crazy kid whose uneventful life involves more reflecting than experiencing. Maraniss pads this less-than-gripping narrative with the meatier back-stories of forebears, many scenes of the college-age Obama brooding over his identity, and pages of relationship angst from a girlfriend's diary. The book doesn't gel until the final chapter on Obama's community organizing work in Chicago, where strands of his personality — detachment, aversion to confrontation, consensus-seeking, idealism tempered by an understanding of the realities of power, a 'determination to avoid life's traps' — coalesce into his mature politics. Obama's story here is interior and un-charismatic, but it makes for a revealing study in character-formation as destiny. The book ends as Obama prepares to enter Harvard Law. Photos. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, Sagalyn Literary Agency. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"By showing us the young Barack Obama — breathing, moving across the world, traversing the bloodknot of race in America alongside family, relationships, and the hurly-burly of Chicago — David Maraniss has shown us a human soul growing almost inch by inch. This is a work of literature, and it possesses the kind of brilliance and verve that would have made James Baldwin himself proud." Wil Haygood, author of King of the Cats: The Life and Times of Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
"The books of David Maraniss are like majestic rivers rolling to the sea, gathering in all the other confluences as they go, gaining their incredible subsurface force. But here, in a multigenerational portrait of a young man owning the most improbable history, Maraniss has outdone himself. Finally, you can understand the man who became the 44th president." Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat: Everything He Loved, and Lost, 1934-1961
"This is a highly textured and intimate look at the family stories behind Obama....A thoroughly fascinating, multigenerational biography that explores broader social and political changes even as it highlights the elements that shaped one man's life." Booklist, starred review
"Another in the author's line of authoritative biographies....Maraniss' portrayal...is masterful and moving." Kirkus Reviews
"Maraniss delivers....The power of Maraniss's reporting becomes apparent in his treatment of the future President's 'dark years'....Maraniss captures Obama's search for purpose and the kindling of his ambition with an intimacy unlike that of other biographers — including Obama....[The book] offers the rawest account of his early life and a deeper understanding of his origins. Three and a half years and countless publications after Obama's Inauguration, that is a remarkable feat." Time
"It's not often that a book has the potential to change the course of political history, which is why this one is probably the most eagerly anticipated American book of the year." NPR.org
"This biography possesses a richness and scope that cannot be captured in short-form journalism, magazine excerpts or a mere review. Maraniss has written a global, multigenerational saga that culminates in the emergence of a young man who is knowable, recognizable and real....Maraniss approaches the task with deep research, crisp, clean writing and judicious reflection that never seems intrusive. He not only succeeds, he makes it look easy." The Washington Post
"[T]his is a revelatory book, which anyone interested in modern politics will want to read, and which will certainly shape our understanding of President Obama's strengths, weaknesses and inscrutabilities. Every few pages Maraniss offers a factual nugget that changes or enlarges the prevailing lore...a richer view of the man we have become familiar with, without really knowing...after this book we know one public figure much better." The New York Times Book Review
From the author of First In His Class, the definitive biography of Bill Clinton, and When Pride Still Mattered, the bestselling biography of Vince Lombardi, and They Marched Into Sunlight, the classic saga of the Vietnam era — a stunning new multigenerational biography of Barack Obama.
In a groundbreaking work based on hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama, and a trove of letters, journals, and other documents, one of our pre-eminent journalists presents a richly textured account of Barack Obama and the forces that shaped him.
This book begins in Kansas and Kenya, decades before Obama was born, and ends as he prepares for a political life. The reader gains a deeper insight into the first black president of the United States, revealing as never before the arc of his history, character, contradictions, and ambition. As with First In His Class, Maraniss's seminal book will redefine a president.
This seamless narrative moves through generations and around the world, evoking time and place so vividly that readers feel they are there. Maraniss explodes the myths as he explores the difficult and colorful lives of the president's forebears and then follows young Barack from Hawaii to Indonesia to Los Angeles to New York to Chicago as he struggles with self-identity and searches for home.
By the author of the bestselling When Pride Still Mattered and the Pulitzer finalist for They Marched into Sunlight and the definitive biography of the young Bill Clinton, First in His Class, a stunning saga of the generations and geography that put Barack Obama on his path to the American presidency. Meticulously reported by one of our pre-eminent journalists, based on hundreds of interviews, the real stories of Obama's disparate forebears and his early life explain as never before the forces that shaped him.
Along the way is a story of passions, vain ambitions, survival and love. There is a sad description of his father's, and father's father's behavior and of their thwarted lives. Maraniss's portrayal of Obama's mother is critical and sympathetic. He shows us Obama as a small school boy in Indonesia, eager and polite, then as a prankster adolescent, a basketball-playing good scholar. The truth is that Barack Obama Jr. began inventing and defining himself from early childhood to undergraduate at Occidental and Columbia Colleges, on to Harvard and "home" to Chicago.
Maraniss evokes time and place so vividly that readers feel they are there. He corrects the record (even Obama's recollections) as he keeps the young Obama always at the center of this adventure.
About the Author
David Maraniss, an associate editor at The Washington Post, is the author of critically acclaimed bestselling books on Bill Clinton, Vince Lombardi, Vietnam and the sixties, Roberto Clemente, and the 1960 Rome Olympics. He won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Clinton, was part of a Post team that won the 2007 Pulitzer for coverage of the Virginia Tech tragedy, and has been a Pulitzer finalist three other times, including in the nonfiction history category for They Marched Into Sunlight: War and Peace, Vietnam and America, October 1967. He lives in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisconsin.
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