By Robert Asketill
There is no question we shall all be watching the leadership of President Barack Obama as he fights for a second term of remaining as he so often calls himself ‘a world leader’.
It is only fair we know much more about his past and rise to power. The planet seemingly at times pauses as we wait for his decision. So here we take a look at his biography now on the market written by David Maraniss (The Making of the Man) as given in the Culture Section of the Sunday Times 17th October 2012.
As America’s first black president stutters towards what looks set to be a nail-bitingly close election, much of the discussion centres on how a presidency heralded worldwide as “transformational” has ended up so very ordinary. Yet, with only a few months to go before the November poll, it’s easy to forget how very unlikely Barack Hussein Obama’s journey to the White House was. Not only is he America’s first black president, but he was brought up by a white single mum, far from Washington, in Hawaii and Indonesia, having been abandoned by his Kenyan father, who already had another wife and children back home.
Much of this story has been told in Obama’s own memoir, ‘Dreams From My Father’. But a far more complete picture emerges from this remarkable look at his early life by David Maraniss that seems more like a sweeping epic novel of generations of a family than a political biography.
The book, which ends when Obama is 27 and working as an immunity organiser in Chicago, starts amid the com fields of Kansas in 1926 where Obama’s great grandmother Ruth Dunham committed suicide in her husband’s car-repair workshop, swallowing strychnine to escape an unhappy marriage. The action swiftly moves thousands of miles to Kendu Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria, where Obama’s grandfather Onyango converts to Islam and adopts the name Hussein after marrying a Zanzibari woman. Working as a cook for British missionaries and adventurers, he takes British habits back to his tribal village, even setting his table for tea.
Giving a new meaning to exhaustive, Maraniss tells us about the kaffir economy of Midwest America, Luo tribal structure, and even what books were on the shelves of Obama’s great grandmother. It is the seventh chapter before we actually meet Obama. So unwieldy is this book that many people may buy it and never read it, which would be a shame as it is written in an engaging style, taking us on an odyssey of self-discovery that tries to make sense of a man who after three and a half years in office remains an enigmatic figure.