*Starred Review* The most famous family in Kenya—and, indeed, the world—provides the context for exploring the broader history of that nation as documentary filmmaker Firstbrook explores the Obama family legacy. He draws on academic historical research as well as oral history and interviews to trace Barack Obama’s family history back 23 generations. Part of the Luo, the second largest tribe in Kenya (following the Kikuyu), the Obama family traversed through several ancestral lands before religion (some were Seventh-Day Adventists, and others were Muslims) and distance separated them into the towns of Kendu Bay and K’ogelo. He highlights Obama’s paternal grandfather, Onyango, who traveled beyond the ancestral lands, prospered, fought in two world wars, and witnessed bloody revolt against British colonialism as well as Kenyan independence. His son, Barack, similarly restless and ambitious, was educated in Hawaii (where he met President Obama’s mother) and the continental U.S. before returning home to continue straddling tribal tradition and the demands of modern Western culture. Obama senior was critical of the government and friendly with Tom Mboya, an activist, who was killed during the Jomo Kenyatta administration, adding to suspicion later when Obama was killed in a car accident. Enhanced with maps and photographs, this is an epic look at the history of a nation and a family. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The story of Barack Obama’s Kenyan roots, this title is the product of dozens of interviews with Obama’s African relatives, presented by the first person to trace Obama’s family history back 400 years and 23 generations. --Vanessa Bush
"Not only does [Firstbrook's] book dig where other researchers have failed to look, but it also provides a compelling narrative about a place, a tribe, and the difficulties of uniting humanity across boundaries...A contemporary family detective story, with Firstbrook as the guide and eventually the answer man to questions directly related to the Obama family. In fact, Firstbrook may now know more about Obama’s roots than does the president himself."
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—Steve Weinberg, Christian Science Monitor
"Like few others in modern history, President Barack Hussein Obama has been dissected within every fiber of his DNA. The Obamas stands apart by literally finding where the President comes from."
"Firstbrook is a first-rate storyteller."
"Firstbrook is nothing if not intrepid...It is not what happened in America that is the point of this assiduous book, which will surely be helpful to future Obama scholars. It is the telling of the story of a large and extended African family that has played a significant and unforgettable role in history across two continents."
"Sharply etched portraits of the president's grandfather Hussein Onyango and his father, Barack Sr.—as well as many living aunts, uncles, and cousins—help bring the periods of British colonialism and Kenyan independence into focus...A sweeping, six-century saga of tribal Africa."
—Douglas Gorney, theatlantic.com
"Lively, sweeping, grand, horrifying, and occasionally funny; a historical biography of a continent, a way of life, a people and, somewhere along the way, the Leader of the Free World...Though some tales will make you gulp, he also entertains readers with cultural explanations, imaginative scenarios, hypothetical situations, and small anecdotes. I enjoyed that, partly for the way Firstbrook presents the information and partly for its relevance in today’s world, as compared to yesterday’s way of life...For the curious, or anyone who just loves a great story, “The Obamas” deserves a closer look.” —Terri Schlichenmeyer, TheTimesWeekly.com (Joliet, Ill.)
"Fascinating and carefully researched."