A thorough study of a subject who is hard to pin down—a welcome, evenhanded addition to the lively literature surrounding...

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THE OTHER BARACK

THE BOLD AND RECKLESS LIFE OF PRESIDENT OBAMA'S FATHER

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. He was the son of a cook who worked for the British colonists of his native Kenya, from a Luo family that was early to convert to Islam; he was also at the forefront of his nation’s push for independence and, at least for a time, favored by the new socialist regime of Jomo Kenyatta. Obama Sr. was, Jacobs writes, “a man of brilliance, one whose probing intellect enabled him to soar above his peers in the scrubby tropical bush in which he was raised.” Yet he failed to live up to his early promise; sent to Harvard to study economics, he did not complete his degree, and on returning to Kenya he was unable to hold down the jobs he was offered, jobs that came with a considerable degree of influence and authority. The problem, it seems, was that Obama Sr. had a great fondness for alcohol; just so, he was a devoted pursuer of women, often married and often divorced, possibly bigamous and seemingly not much concerned with the children he fathered—including the future president who bears his name. Obama was clearly charismatic, just as clearly riddled with flaws; his political enemies put those shortcomings to good use, and Jacobs explores the conspiracy theories surrounding his death in an automobile accident. That curious end seems fitting, in a way, casting an enigmatic shadow over a man who was in life “a baffling mystery to many with whom he had lived and worked, including his disparate tribe of children.”

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.

Pub Date: July 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-793-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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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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BECOMING

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...

NIGHT

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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