So, I'm a huge fan of the podcasts on Slate and recently (well, recently for me anyways because I'm still catching up on my podcasts), they spoke about this biography of President Obama. Now, I've read Dreams From My Father and I've also read a Singular Woman, which is a biography of President Obama's mother. I wanted to get more of a third party story of Barack Obama, so I picked this up.
I found that Maraniss strove to rise above the myth making/myth-bashing that both sides have attempted to create in surrounding Mr. Obama. Mr. Maraniss starts with early Kansas and early Kenya. A good portion of the book is dedicated to the familial heritage that led up to Mr. Obama's birth, including the death of great-grandparents and the fight for independence in Colonial Kenya. We don't meet an infant Obama until page 165 or so. I was particularly impressed by how detailed Mr. Maraniss' descriptions of Obama's alcoholic and self destructive father were. I was also struck by how quick Ann Dunham's relationship with Obama, Sr. was - I mean, I knew it wasn't a particularly long relationship and couldn't be because Obama Sr. had wives scattered all over the place. However, I didn't realize it was as over and done as quickly as it was.
I got the book out of the library so that I could specifically learn about President Obama and his life while he was growing up. I wanted to learn more about his coming of age - his awakening so to speak - and this book did not disappoint in that regards. I learned about Obama's life in Indonesia and in Hawai'i while he was at Punahou School and it was absolutely fascinating. He also looked at his years at Occidental College and at Columbia and while he was community organizing in Chicago. I was very impressed by Maraniss' research style - he based the biography on interviews with the people that were involved with him, letters and journals. Maraniss also did a wonderful job pointing out the differences between Obama's actual biography and what he recorded in his memoir because there were some definite inaccuracies.
This is a book that all should read and add this to their library.