An engaging overview of the president’s early political education.




Journalist McClelland (The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters, and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes, 2008, etc.) looks at the effect of President Obama’s years in Chicago.

Obama first came to Chicago in 1985 as a recent Columbia University graduate to work as a community organizer in the housing projects on Chicago’s South Side. After a three-year absence to attend Harvard Law School, he went on to spend his entire political career in Chicago—first as an Illinois state senator, then as Illinois’s junior U.S. Senator—before becoming president. McClelland, a former staff writer for the Chicago Reader, reported on Obama during his time in the city, and he provides a vivid portrait of Chicago and its politics—from the poor Altgeld Gardens housing projects, where Obama directed the Developing Communities Project as an organizer, to the nearby affluent academic neighborhood of Hyde Park, where he taught as a law professor at the University of Chicago. The city’s rough-and-tumble political atmosphere toughened Obama as a legislator and honed his skill at making important political alliances. He also got an education in bare-knuckle political tactics, knocking rivals out of his initial state senate race by aggressively challenging voter petitions. Through legislation, he worked to remedy the city’s infamous political corruption. His failed run for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 2000 made him rethink his staid and professorial public demeanor, transforming him into a stunningly charismatic speechmaker. Significantly, he was also forced to confront the complex politics of race in a city with the largest population of African-Americans in the United States—some of whom questioned the authenticity of the mixed-race Obama’s “blackness.” While McClelland perhaps overstates the importance of Chicago on the national political stage—“[O]nly in Chicago could a black man become president of the United States”—he makes a convincing case that President Obama’s experiences in his adopted city shaped him profoundly and helped make him the seasoned and formidable politician he is today.

An engaging overview of the president’s early political education.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-60819-060-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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