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The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama's Father
     

The Other Barack: The Bold and Reckless Life of President Obama's Father

by Sally H. Jacobs
 

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The life story of the father of the most powerful elected leader in the world is an epic tale, one as daring as it was improbable.

The father of the U.S. president, the first Barack Hussein Obama, was born in rural poverty in Kenya. His own father was a dominating figure who worked as a cook for the British colonists and broke with Luo tradition when he

Overview


The life story of the father of the most powerful elected leader in the world is an epic tale, one as daring as it was improbable.

The father of the U.S. president, the first Barack Hussein Obama, was born in rural poverty in Kenya. His own father was a dominating figure who worked as a cook for the British colonists and broke with Luo tradition when he converted to the Muslim faith. Their household was a severe one from which Barack's mother fled in fear for her life. Despite such domestic turmoil, Barack was as fiercely smart as he was intrepid. Admitted to one of Kenya's premiere private schools, he was later thrown out for his defiant behavior.

Adrift in the political churning of Kenya's pre-independence days, Barack attracted the interest of an American literacy worker who took him under her wing. By day, they worked on the literacy primers that would change the lives of illiterate Africans. By night, they often went dancing in the full glare of disapproval of those racially segregated times. She helped him prepare for college in America and in 1959 paid his first year's tuition at the University of Hawaii.

The first African student on the UH campus, Barack stood out in many respects. One of those was the young white woman, Ann Dunham, whom he began to date. A year after they met, the couple had a son named Barack Hussein Obama II. Barack did not tell his young wife about the two children he had left behind in Kenya, nor did he tell university authorities about his family back home until much later. Luos were often polygamous and Obama saw no need to part with custom.

At Harvard University, Barack joined the academic elite and prepared to take his place among the big men in newly independent Kenya. But Barack's experience at Harvard was emblematic of a life that seesawed between high hopes and cruel frustrations, many of them self-inflicted in drunken furies. Yet the charm, the intellectual brilliance, and the fierce pride in his vision of independent Kenya never flagged. He was a bold and reckless man, whose life courted controversy and ultimately veered fatally out of his control. He was heroic in his ambition, deeply flawed, and, extraordinarily, the father of an American president, the other Barack.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Taylor Branch, author of Parting the Waters and The Clinton Tapes
“This is a work of genuine discovery. Sally Jacobs portrays the senior Obama with boundless humanity and unflinching candor. Through his fractured family quest, she illuminates both the pitfalls and promise of freedom in a shrinking world. Her biography will enrich our concept of a founding father.”

John Lonsdale, Emeritus Professor of Modern African History, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
“My favorite injunction to historians—or biographers—comes from the Nigerian playwright and poet Wole Soyinka: ‘Leave the dead some room to dance.’ The other Barack certainly knew how to dance, literally, intellectually, socially and sexually. Sally Jacobs has wonderfully restored him to life in the contradictory contexts of colonial and independent Kenya, the one exploitative and repressive yet capable of social mobility, the other exciting, full of unprecedented opportunity yet also divisive and chilling in its rivalries. Barack, like Icarus, flew too high. The many women who loved him have borne the burden of his fall. Jacobs brings triumph and tragedy brilliantly together.”

Martin Meredith, author of The Fate of Africa
“Sally Jacobs has pieced together the wayward career of President Obama’s African father with skill, verve, and insight, prising out the quirks of fate that led him to the shores of the United States. From interviews with family members, friends, and colleagues, she paints a vivid portrait of a clever, charming, callous, and secretive man, a prolific drinker and philanderer, who squandered the many chances that came his way and died in Kenya in straitened circumstances, the victim of his own inner demons, hardly knowing the son who was to scale the pinnacle of power.”

The Spectator, July 7, 2011
“I had expected to dip briefly into this tale of hubris, but found myself strangely mesmerized, hooked until the end. With the meticulousness characteristic of a certain breed of American foreign correspondent, Sally Jacobs pulls off an impressive double-hander of her own, painting a detailed portrait of an emerging African nation while tracking the dogged self-destruction of a braggadocio crippled by the conviction of his own superiority.”

Kirkus, July 15, 2011
“A pioneering, full-scale biography of President Obama’s father, a promising but troubled man.  Boston Globe reporter Jacobs puts her investigative skills to work in following the elder Obama’s trail across continents and years… A thorough study of a subject who is hard to pin down—a welcome, evenhanded addition to the lively literature surrounding President Obama’s genealogy.”

The Daily, July 17, 2011
“Sally Jacobs, a reporter for the Boston Globe, reaffirms and deepens the record, drawing on interviews with the sprawling Obama family and their acquaintances, as well as on memoirs and other historical sources… It provides fascinating clues to understanding the President’s puzzle of a father.”
 
Tyler Cowen’s Marginal Revolution, July 19, 2011
Morozov's ‘The Net Delusion’ should be read by cockeyed optimists and pessimists alike. It's as important today as McLuhan's  books ("The Gutenberg Galaxy," "Understanding Media," "The Medium is the Massage," etc.) were in the 1950s through the 1970s.”

Mail on Sunday (UK), July 31, 2011
 “With admirable endeavour, Sally Jacobs has pieced together the hidden fragments of Obama Snr’s life, tracking down family members, friends and colleagues, sifting through official documents and prising out the quirks of fate that led him to Hawaii in the first place.”
 
Irish Times, July 30, 2011
“[an] intriguing story about the father of the American President…Jacobs tells a fascinating story of a likeable, reckless, talented fool whose dreams of himself far exceeded his ability to realize them.”
 
Scotland on Sunday, July 31, 2011 “(The) impressive research work undertaken by Boston Globe journalist Sally Jacobs (is) a worthwhile exercise, and a useful read for those seeking to understand more fully America’s first black president.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781610391863
Publisher:
PublicAffairs
Publication date:
08/28/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


Sally H. Jacobs lives in Boston. She has been a reporter for over three decades, most recently with The Boston Globe. She has specialized in political reporting and profiles including the famously reclusive Joan Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Pat Patrick, Deval Patrick's father. This is her first book.

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