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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama Fair, Balanced, Easy-to-Read

(Image from Amazon)

"If there's anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of democracy, tonight is your answer."

- Barack Obama; November 4, 2008

There's a reason you don't see many political books reviewed on this site: Talk of checks and balances, electoral votes, Senate subcommittees and such just makes my eyes glaze over. I've tried to make myself less apathetic, less ignorant, but ... politics just isn't my thing. Even the recent presidential election failed to excite me. My inner cynic said the American public would never elect a Mormon (Romney), a woman (Clinton) or a non-white (Obama). Thus, I figured McCain was a shoo-in. Imagine my shock when Barack Obama emerged victorious. Although I don't agree with many of the president's views, his election seems to signal change, progress and hopefully, a step forward in the fight against racism. Whatever else he is, Obama is a fascinating man. So, when the ladies at MotherTalk offered me a chance to review Obama: The Historic Journey (Text is by Jill Abramson, managing editor of The New York Times), I eagerly accepted. I was especially thrilled to find that it's a Young Reader's Edition, perfect for a political ignoramus like me.

The book gives a quick overview of Obama's life, with several chapters on his unconventional childhood and his student years at Harvard Law School, but focuses mostly on his road to the presidency. Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. His father was a black man from Kenya, his mother a free-spirited white woman. Their marriage was unusual, especially in the early 1960s, and didn't last long. After their divorce, Obama's mother married an Indonesian man, prompting a move to Jakarta, where the family lived until 1971. Back in Hawaii, he attended school while his mother returned to Indonesia to pursue her own studies. With his father and stepfather absent, and his mother abroad, Obama was raised by his beloved grandmother. After high school, he attended Harvard, worked as a lawyer, professor, and became a senator. He met and married Michelle, had two daughters, and began campaigning for president. In November of 2008, he became the 44th President of The United States, the first bi-racial person ever to hold that office.

Barack Obama's journey is documented in this book with glossy photographs, timelines, even a FAQs type page that lists his favorite foods, movies, music, etc. His favorite books are listed as Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. The writing is a bit choppy, especially when describing Obama's early years, but it's also straightforward and readable. There are a few editing issues - my copy had 2 pages transposed - but overall, it offers a fair, balanced look at a fascinating man in an easy-to-read format. It even offers quick sidebars to explain terms like "caucus," "primary," and "delegate" - just in case politics isn't your thing, either.

Grade: B-


  1. Susan, what a terrific quote you open your review with!

    I read (and posted about) Obama's fascinating books, Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope, in order to learn about our new president.

  2. Ditto - great leading quote - it's my favorite! I also read and reviewed The Audacity of Hope, and it's honestly in the top 3 books I've ever read.


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