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Young Mr. Obama [Kindle Edition]

Edward McClelland
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Barack Obama's inspirational politics and personal mythology have overshadowed his fascinating history. Young Mr. Obama gives us the missing chapter: the portrait of the politician as a young leader, often too ambitious for his own good, but still equipped with a rare ability to inspire change. The route to the White House began on the streets of Chicago's South Side.Edward McClelland, a veteran Chicago journalist, tells the real story of the first black president's political education in the capital of the African American political community. Obama's touch wasn't always golden, and the unflappable and charismatic campaigner we know today nearly derailed his political career with a disastrous run for Congress in 2000. Obama learned from his mistakes, and rebuilt his public persona. Young Mr. Obama is a masterpiece of political reporting, peeling away the audacity, the T-shirts, and the inspiring speeches to craft a compelling and surpassingly readable account of how local politics shaped a national leader.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Barack Obama's presidency is beset by falling ratings, a weak economy, and an antideficit mood, McClelland's examination of Obama's ascendency should encourage supporters and instill caution in opponents. This detailed history traces Obama's arrival as a community organizer self-conscious about his exoticness and his rise to the top of Chicago politics in his 2004 primary campaign for the Senate. While the insider baseball of Chicago politics can prove dauntingly detailed, the account illustrates critical moments in Obama's whirlwind ascent to high office. His 1999 loss to congressman and former Black Panther Bobby Rush left Obama dejected, demoralized and bitter about attacks on his credibility as a black politician, but McClelland (The Third Coast) is refreshingly unsparing on Obama's missteps: Obama didn't lose because he was ÿtoo white.' He lost because he was a presumptuous young man challenging a popular incumbent. Political junkies will pay close attention to the story of Obama's tough political learning curve even as it recounts how the president's early ambitions bore out his initial belief that his adopted home was the perfect training ground for solving America's problems, racial and otherwise.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“With Young Mr. Obama, Edward McClelland finishes what The Bridge started, showing how Obama navigated Chicago political life, which can be as rough as a Blackhawks game … McClelland’s book is long on reporting and narrative, and short on meditation and analysis – for which readers can be thankful…. For the many Americans who remain fascinated with the American president, Young Mr. Obama makes for insightful, enlightening reading, a worthy supplement to Remnick’s book and a valuable contribution to the record on the 44th president.”—Christian Science Monitor


“So the question was whether is this just another Obama book. The answer is no. The great strength of the book lies in it coverage of the early years…. delving into all this breaks new biographical ground and will function as a solid foundation for future books on the subject. The book is a must-read for all Obama political junkies who want to know more for it does significantly advance the historical record regarding his younger years.”—New York Journal of Books


“McClelland does a great job illustrating how the gerrymandering of Chicago's First Congressional District and the emergence of early 20th century black leaders such as Oscar DePriest and William Dawson established strong foundations for black leadership to emerge in Chicago and across Illinois, well before it became accepted elsewhere.”—


“McClelland explores how Chicago's long-established African American political power bases helped nurture Obama's career.”—San Francisco Chronicle


“Where did Barack Obama come from?  No answer to that question can be complete without the stories that unfold in this book.  Many of them date from the time when Edward McClelland was just about the only reporter covering the young and unknown Obama.  Understanding how this extraordinary leader rose from Chicago politics to the pinnacle of world power is not possible without the insights in Young Mr.Obama.”—Stephen Kinzer, author of Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq


"Edward McClelland's Young Mr. Obama argues convincingly that our first black president couldn't have come from any place other than Chicago. If you want to understand the 'Chicago-style' politics that shaped our president--the real thing, not the right-wing cartoon--you have to read Young Mr. Obama."—Joan Walsh, editor in chief of


“[McClelland] makes a convincing case that President Obama’s experiences in his adopted city shaped him profoundly and helped make him the seasoned and formidable politician he is today. An engaging overview of the president’s early political education.” —Kirkus Reviews


“As Barack Obama’s presidency is beset by falling ratings, a weak economy, and an antideficit mood, McClelland’s examination of Obama’s ascendency should encourage supporters and instill caution in opponents.” —Publishers Weekly



“Richly details Obama's background in Chicago and how it impressed those who would eventually help his presidential campaign like senior advisor David Axelrod.” —Paul Bedard, U.S. News & World Report’s Washington Whispers blog


“A fine survey of how local Chicago politics shaped Obama.”—Midwest Book Review


“A great read.”—AND Magazine

Product Details

  • File Size: 490 KB
  • Print Length: 284 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1608190609
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press (October 19, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0040GJ5F6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,741 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
McClelland's book is a very readable look at the voyage President Obama took from Harvard Law School to the winning of the Democratic Primary for the United States Senate in Illinois. This was tantamount to winning the general election in Illinois and a large stepping stone to the presidency. The fun part of reading the book was the learning process for the future president as he moved through Chicago's political jurisdictions. He had to learn to interact with politicians and the general populations in some of the all African-American and poor areas of the city. This did not come easily and he had much help from political friends in the city and at the University of Chicago. The book follows Mr. Obama through a lot of victories in city areas and a few losses. Along the way, McClelland writes about some of Chicago's historical politicians such as U.S. Senator Paul Simon, U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Mayor Richard J. Daley.
Young Mr. Obama is a fascinating and worthwhile look at the intricacies of a politician traveling through the sometimes new behaviors a recent outstanding graduate of Harvard Law School needed to learn in order to find his way through all of the varied communities of the city of Chicago.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Look at Mr. Obama November 7, 2010
By Paul F
For anyone fascinated by the sudden rise of the President, or anyone just interested in local politics, especially local Chicago politics, this is a must read. Mr. McClelland clearly had a unique glimpse of the rising President unlike maybe anyone in the country. Following Obama's rise from his first move to Chicago to his US Senate run, the author writes a brilliant narrative of an ambitious politician who transformed himself to become the star that he is today. Anyone political hopeful who wants to see how an unlikely story like that of Obama became reality, this is the book for him or her. Whether you are a fan of the President or not, this tells the unbiased story of his political roots and why only rising in Chicago, could Obama become President.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clinic on political reportage August 18, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was a graduate student at the University of Chicago, working on a Ph.D. and living in Hyde Park when the events in this book took place. As someone who lived through them as one of Obama's constituents, I picked up this book out of curiosity. Four hours later, I had finished it. It's a truly excellent account of Obama's time in Chicago: engagingly written, knowledgeable, and never ponderous despite the author's obvious expertise. Anyone interested in learning more about Obama's career in Chicago, or just looking for a great example of how to cover politics, should read this book.

The book covers Obama's career in Chicago as a community organizer on the far south side to his election as senator (his time at Harvard is not discussed). McClelland's basic argument is that Chicago's demographics gave the black community real political power, a power exemplified by the election of Harold Washington as mayor of the city. At the same time, this power was based on a history of identity politics which limited the ability of black politicians to reach state- and nation-wide audiences. Obama, he argues, was black enough to galvanize Chicago's local political scene, but white enough to engage a broader white audience. It was this unique mix, in Chicago's unique location, that allowed Obama to rise to national audience.

McClelland's book is written in wiry prose full of tough-guy verse. Candidates do not lose races, they are unhorsed. Staff writers from the New Yorker are not prominent journalists, they are bigfoot pencils. Lavish homes in Kenwood are Edwardian piles professors blow their Nobel Prize loot on.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can see the White House from the South Side December 13, 2010
I read this book in three days because I felt the story was so fascinating. Having lived in Chicago the past five years, it was fun to get a glimpse into Chicago politics and how the scene here helped shape Obama. There is a lot of bang for the buck the 230 pages of story here. Obama's early days are fun to follow and it's interesting to see how Obama matured over the years.

In reality, I wish this book had two weeks worth of material. Another 200 pages of reading to provide more depth would have have made this a world class book. As I was reading it, I kept saying to myself, this book has the potential to be like "Common Ground". Common Ground is one of the best books I have read and the characters and story in this book leave you wanting to know more about their background and how they all fit together, not just as they relate to Obama's rise as a politician. Including more chapters to provide more meat such as "Chicago Politics and the Machine"; "Black Leaders and Mayors in America." "Jesse Jackson and his run for President" would have been most welcome.

The only other thing that is missing is pictures. Who are all these people who played key roles in Obama's pre-political career? What makes the cover photo so great is the young Barack Obama knocking on a door of a run down house with bars. I want to see more of his early days' work and the people he met along the way to make the story more powerful.

That being said, I highly recommend this book to learn more about Barack Obama before he was famous and to learn more about how Chicago Politics work. I learned things I did not know before and had fun reading the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Young Mr. Obama is more than the early political years of our current president (44th), it's how politics in Chicago (and in other places as well). Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lucas Hermedas
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
An extremely interesting story about the President and Chicago (my old home town) politics. I read the Kindle edition and really enjoyed it. Read more
Published 8 months ago by John W. Spiech
5.0 out of 5 stars Book
This product does a great job. It is priced right and well constructed. I would recommend heartily. A real buy!
Published 11 months ago by Bartoomann
5.0 out of 5 stars It is spot on.
Want to know what really happened? I bought this books to see how well it matches my actual experiences. It is spot on.
Published 12 months ago by Zenotis Boyd Jr.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great background on Chicago politics
I learned so much about Black Chicago politics. This book is like the history book that's missing from regular classrooms. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Regina Rodriguez-Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
I loved this book because I live close to Chicago and I always wanted to know more facts about President Obama before he got to the White House.
Published 20 months ago by Lynne
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful.
This book explains a lot about how and why Obama came to run his campaign. I liked that it wasn't merely a book making him seem like God, but it outlined his struggles and... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Shmojo
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring!
I have not finished reading YOUNG MR. OBAMA... but I did want to make some comments from what I have read. I have learned about politics & how things work. Read more
Published on September 19, 2012 by Maria E Freeman
5.0 out of 5 stars A future president in the context of a city
I bought this book after my recent move to Chicago, largely because of the jacket copy's contention that Obama could not have become president had he not come to Chicago as a young... Read more
Published on September 7, 2012 by T.Badger
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Mr. Obama
It was as kind to Mr Obama as the author apparently felt comfortable, but did reveal Obama's role as a community leader. Which was the backroom cheerleader intead of the CEO. Read more
Published on September 6, 2012 by Gene E
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More About the Author

Edward McClelland was born in Lansing, Mich., in 1967. Like so many Michiganders of his generation, he now lives in Chicago, Ill. His upcoming book, "Nothin' But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times and Hopes of America's Industrial Heartland," which will be released in May 2013 by Bloomsbury Press, was inspired by seeing the Fisher Body plant across the street from his old high school torn down. After getting his start in journalism at the Lansing State Journal, he later worked as a staff writer for the Chicago Reader. His book "The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes" won the 2008 Great Lakes Book Award in General Nonfiction. Ted's writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Columbia Journalism Review, Salon, Slate, and The Nation.

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