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Homeland: An Extraordinary Story of Hope and Survival Hardcover – January 5, 2010

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About the Author

George Obama lives and works in the ghetto in Nairobi, Kenya, under the auspices of the Huruma Centre Community Youth Group, and The Mwelu Foundation. He is presently setting up the George Hussein Obama Foundation to further his ghetto work.

Damien Lewis has reported from war and conflict zones and aid and conservation projects for twenty years for the BBC, CNN, and many other news organizations. He is the author of a number of books on elite military operations and coauthor of several acclaimed memoirs.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


PROLOGUE


You know, they said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose. But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn’t do.

The man’s voice boomed out from the tiny TV screen on the shelf above the bar in Kenya where racks of bottles and glasses sat protected behind thick metal bars. His speech was as strong and unyielding as those cold steel bars, the voice resonant, deep, and powerful, like a rich promise of hope.


In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and in big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans, and independents, to stand up and say that we are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.

In the crowd behind the tall, copper-skinned man who was speaking, I could see a bunch of mostly white people—mzungus as we call them in Kenya—smiling and cheering ecstatically, and waving blue placards with the man’s name on them, or red ones emblazoned with the slogan Stand for Change.


We are choosing hope over fear. We’re choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

This was the voice of a man who in the winter of 2008 had the promise of becoming the next U.S. president. But more than that, perhaps, this was the voice of a man who might truly make history by becoming the first black president of America. But to Kenyans like us, this was first and foremost the voice of a man who was Africa’s lost son, for as far as we were concerned, he was half-Kenyan and hailed from one of the foremost tribes in our country—the Luo.


The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face, who will listen to you and learn from you, even when we disagree, who won’t just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.

Unlike every other black Kenyan in that bar, I had a unique and special reason for listening to those words. For the man delivering this extraordinarily rousing speech was my half brother, a brother by blood, but one that I had barely known.


This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long…. This was the moment when we finally beat back the politics of fear and doubt and cynicism, the politics where we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up. This was the moment.

From the wild cheering of the crowd, and his repeated appeals to them personally—“You said… You heard… You called…”—I felt as if the people of America knew this man far better than I, and felt a more personal connection to him, and yet he and I shared the same father. We had lived two separate lives, a world apart, yet in a sense we were joined forever by birth. And that was the strangest thing of all for me; that was both the closeness and the gulf between us.


Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope.

I glanced around the sparse bar, with its plain and yellowing walls. A bare concrete balcony looked out over the noisy, chaotic streets of the ghetto. Old men and young clustered around the chipped Formica tabletops, gazing at that screen and listening with something like rapture. Not a soul in that bar cared much for Kenyan politics, which seemed forever mired in corruption. But in this man—in their lost African son—Kenyans saw their own promise of hope and change that might somehow shine a light into the dark heart of Africa.


For many months, we’ve been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism…. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.

Hope. He used that word a lot, did my big brother in America. Yet for so many years hope had been an alien concept to me. During my darkest, lost years the very concept of hope had been closed to me. It was only relatively recently that I had learned again what it meant to know and to feel the true spirit of hope.


Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. What led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. What led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom’s cause.

After living a life of relative privilege, I had crashed and burned in my teens, and I had lost all hope. I had migrated from the plush Nairobi suburbs to a life with the city’s street kids, and from there I had been sucked into the wild chaos of the ghetto. I had lost myself in drink and drugs, and I had become a gun-toting gangster, caught in a life of violence and crime.


Hope—hope is what led me here today. With a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas, and a story that could only happen in the United States of America.

At the mention of our country the crowd in the bar jumped to its feet, cheering wildly. What would the drinkers think, I wondered, were they to realize that Barack Obama’s half brother sat in their very midst—George Obama, an unremarkable resident of the Huruma slum.


Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be…

While he was striving to become president of the United States, I was a slum-dwelling ex-prisoner and ex-gangster. And with each day that my big brother’s fame and status grew, I knew deep within myself that my anonymity couldn’t last. In a day, a week, a month, whatever, someone would inevitably make the connection—we shared the same father, but had different mothers—and venture into the closed and dangerous world of the slums to track me down.


We are the United States of America. And in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Sure enough, the journalists and reporters came into my ghetto homeland in droves. Having my long-lost brother win the American presidency would prove both a blessing and a curse.

Not even he could erase the darkness and the shame in my past. Only I might do that, by helping build for the people of my slum homeland a better and a brighter future. And one step at a time I reckoned we were getting there.

© 2010 George Obama and Damien Lewis

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (January 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439176175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439176177
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,647,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the Obama autobiography worth reading. George Hussein Obama is a truly amazing and caring man, who lost his way for a time and paid for it in conditions I read, yet still cannot fathom. He returned to become an inspiration to and leader of those who dwell in the Huruma slum of Nairobi.
His mother's family, and later, his father's family, instilled in him his true worth. He is his own man, and I admire him for being just that.
This is a well written book by Damien Lewis and George Hussein Obama. If you have a heart and a mind you will be moved by the clear, and occasionally, far too detailed (for a Westerner), descriptions of the conditions, the struggle, and the brutality of the `powers that be' that those less fortunate in Kenya experience.

I highly recommend this book and the following websites found at the end of the book.
(...)
(...)
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ETU on February 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A personal account and insight on how he dealt with abandonment from his father figure. The turn of events that caused both a distructive lifestyle and another event that brought him to evaluate what he wanted for his future...one that was to be productive and rewarding. The view of a ghetto that is universal I was left with the new meaning of "family" in a ghetto,and embracing the responsiblity to help our fellow man with a vision of hope. In the end the philosophying became a bit preachy. However, I was left with the need to read how this young man continued his life / lifestyle. Will there be a sequel?
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Popps on June 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
You learn a lot more than about a single life from this book, but about a way of life. The insider perspective from the Kenyan mean streets is a rare one and George's narrative allows for a vivid presentation of the slums. The life he lead to survive his environment was not pretty, but this book not only exposes not only internal motivations, but also displays how harsh a reality millions of people suffer from. There is a large personal growth from George and you become inspired by his determination to turn his life around. Highly recommended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dan in AZ on November 2, 2012
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I found the book 'Homeland' by George Obama interesting. It tells a story of a young man that has had a hard
life, but seems to have survived. George lives in a country that does not have many 'safety nets'. He has lead a life of crime and addiction, yet he has come through this to be a productive person.

It was interesting to see that the two half brothers are similar and different at the same time. George exeprienced the same death of a father at a young age. He had a male figure for a while in his life. This person left, reasons not stated. This hurt George greatly. He rebelled and for many years he was in a downward spiral. His intelligence kicked in and he has done some really good work for the society around him.

Barack also lost this same father. It seems that he was raised without a strong father figure. Barack is also intelligent. He has taken this intelligence all the way to the presidency of the USA.

What I found most interesting about the two brothers lies in the fact that both have ended up as community
organizers. Barack as a liberal that seems to feel that government is the answer to people's problems. George on the other hand seems to feel that people have to look out for themselves.

I agree more with George than Barack. I was very impressed with this man's idea of self responsibility and that he wants to do it alone. He does not want Barack to step in and it seems that Barack agrees.

A Good Read.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Guess who on September 18, 2012
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What refreshing honesty, self examination and independent thinking. He has a strong independent personality willing to self criticise, learn from mistakes and take responsibility for his actions. Laced with all of this I found a good person who has a caring personality not afraid to expose his needs and vulnerabilities. This is a fast easy read and I highly recommend it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By G. Thompson on September 1, 2012
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I was absolutely taken in by this book and could not put it down. It is so different than what I expected. Here is a young man whose life started out as privileged and spiraled into a very dark place because of heartbreak. All through the book I could see his good character even during his darkest times. He's honest and holds nothing back about his life. He is living the life he wants to live now and is finding his joy in helping the people, especially the kids, in his slum community. It's his life calling and he loves it. What is that but a dream come true and a success? I admire him greatly. You will come to love George. I sure did.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David Klein on September 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This books is well worth the read. Georege Obama's story is at times heart breaking and in the end inspiring. To see and feel all the adversity he had to go through in his early years, and to see that in the end he not merely survives but even thrives is truly remarkable.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Vic Wall on June 25, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
The narrative surpasses a simple autobiography to show the reality of what living in one of the most lawless and poverty stricken slums in Kenya truly means. Revealing a life that most cannot imagine, George Obama explains not only how he fell into car-jacking and street-fighting, but also how he left that lifestyle behind. With a conclusion delving into why George refused to leave his adopted family in the slums, but chose to instead work on bettering their situation, is a moving development. How his path compared to and crossed with that of his brother, President Obama, was also fascinating to follow.
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