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Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama Hardcover – May 9, 2017
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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“Impressive. ... [A] deeply reported work of biography.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Rigorous. ... Thorough. ... Meticulously researched. ... Delivers insight and clarity on Obama’s enigmatic personality.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“A prodigious work. ... Each page crackles with the strength of [Garrow’s] research.” (USA Today)
“Extremely well-done. ... Garrow slices the fat of fiction away from fact. ... [A book] equally as valuable for what it is saying about the present and the future as well as the past.” (Atlanta Black Star)
“Revealing. ... Probing. ... [Garrow] tells us how Obama lived, and explores the calculations he made in the decades leading up to his winning the presidency.” (Washington Post)
“Phenomenal… Essential. … Persuasive. … Authoritative. … A stunning and indispensable work of history. … A masterwork of historical and journalistic research… [and] a terrific read.” (David Greenberg, Politico)
“One of the most impressive presidential biographies... [and] a look at the social construction of race.” (Bloomberg (a Must-Read of 2017))
“A tour de force. ... An epic triumph of personal and political biography. (Paul Street, <I>New York Journal of Books</I>)
“The authoritative biography of Barack Obama’s prepresidential years. ... Illuminating. ... Impressively researched. ... Readers will be richly rewarded.” (Library Journal (starred review))
“A convincing and exceptionally detailed portrait. ... Political history buffs will be fascinated.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
From the Back Cover
Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America’s first African American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now.
Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama captivatingly describes Barack Obama’s tumultuous upbringing as a young black man attending an almost-all-white, elite private school in Honolulu while being raised almost exclusively by his white grandparents. After recounting Obama’s college years in California and New York, Garrow charts Obama’s time as a Chicago community organizer, working in some of the city’s roughest neighborhoods; his years at the top of his Harvard Law School class; and his return to Chicago, where Obama honed his skills as a hard-knuckled politician, first in the state legislature and then as a candidate for the United States Senate.
Detailing a scintillating, behind-the-scenes account of Obama’s 2004 speech, a moment that labeled him the Democratic Party’s “rising star,” Garrow also chronicles Obama’s four years in the Senate, weighing his stands on various issues against positions he had taken years earlier, and recounts his thrilling run for the White House in 2008.
In Rising Star, David J. Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world. Most important, Rising Star is an extraordinary work of biography—tremendous in its research and storytelling, and brilliant in its analysis of the all-too-human struggles of one of the most fascinating politicians of our time.
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WOW! The first thing that impresses a reader is that this 1,461-paage tome feels like it weighs like a 10-lb. sack of flour (okay, really only 7.2 lbs.). About 78% of the book is analysis (1,078 pages), with the balance being: notes, bibliography, and index.
The author deeply delves into studying the upbringing of U.S. Pres. Barack Hussein Obama from his childhood years up to his announcement that he would run for the office of the U.S. President in mid-January 2007. The author doesn't really analyze the 2008 presidential campaign itself in detail, but notes several crises that could have severely hurt (and possibly derail) Obama's campaign. In the Epilogue, the author does briefly review both presidential campaigns, and notes some highlighted events in Obama's presidency (hey, only about 35 pages of reviewing his eight years in the Oval Office).
Being a libertarian, I was surprised to read: "Barack claimed to Time [magazine] that as an undergraduate, 'I was reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek,' famous conservative economists,", but doesn't relate how those two influenced him outside of apparently stimulating his survival spirit: "... Barack told the Tribune [newspaper] that 'I had to scratch and claw my way to the point I am now....'" (p. 1049).
The author reviews how the controversial remarks of Rev. Jeremiah Wright impacted Obama's campaign, as well as questionable sexcapade controversies during his college years. The author's legal credentials will have to serve as how one views the "truthiness" of the author's contentions and discoveries. I wasn't involved in Obama's campaigns, and like most will need to await the feedback of Obama's staff in (partially) validating some aspects of the author's portrait of our 44th president.
Hey, there's almost 1,100 pages of critical analysis, so there is indeed extensive commentary on Barack's teenage and collegiate life.
Undoubtedly, anti-Obama conservatives will be pleased with the many revelations in this book, but they undoubtedly will bemoan "if only this stuff had been revealed earlier!" Obama fans will pan some of the author's contentions, but most of us will be impressed with the extensive research that the author has undertaken in exposing so much of the unknown Barack (at least to those of us who didn't follow his Chicago, liberal community-organization activities, state senate votes, and his brief U.S. Senate career -- topics which the author discusses in great detail). [Brent Staples has a fine review in The New York Times. Also, do see a conservative's view by Lloyd Billingsley in his review "The Incredible Bulk: David Garrow’s massive monument to the Obama myth" in the May 22, 2017 online "FrontPage Mag"..]
The overarching conclusion, too, that Obama is blinkered by ambition is odd, given that this "rising star" turned down a sure path to a Supreme Court clerkship, not something such highly ambitious law students normally do (although that was some good reporting from Garrow). He also turned down a sure path to a tenured track offer from several law schools.
All to say, this book isn't worth the hours and hours of sifting through minutiae. You're better off with Remnick and the future definitive biography that is yet unwritten. Fortunately, future biographers will be undeterred. They don't even need to read this thing.
Michelle was not interested in politics, she hated it. What she loved was money. However, in the beginning of their marriage she grudgingly acquiesced to Barack's low-paying position with the Illinois State legislature because Michelle herself was earning a six-figure salary at Sidley Austin. But then suddenly, mysteriously, Michelle left the firm AND forfeited her law license (after barely 3 years of practice) to take a public job which paid barely one-third of her old income. She was not pleased about this and immediately demanded that her husband leave politics and get a job at a prestigious law firm that would bring in the salary she craved. Barack balked at that and instead began working three jobs at once (state legislature, law school professor and lawyer) to bring in the money. But it wasn't enough for her. He then tried to placate her by promising her they would get rich from his book 'Dreams Of My Father' (which Garrow takes great pains to insist was NOT written with the help of Bill Ayers). Alas, the book was a flop. Michelle's anger at her husband's failure to make money provoked countless arguments between the two of them; fights which she had no qualms displaying in public, humiliating Barack constantly in front of friends and strangers. At this point, Barack bargained desperately with Michelle to allow him to run for U.S. Representative; surely this would bring in the funds she craved. Alas, he not only badly lost the election but plunged into debt up to his ears. Barack had truly hit bottom. And then? Suddenly money began pouring in for him.
Garrow gives no explanation as to why, he merely describes how Barack for the first time in his life was in charge of the allocation of millions of dollars in public funds which he began distributing as political patronage right and left. Shortly afterwards, Barack announced he would run for the United States Senate, a hugely expensive venture. But once again, he mysteriously came into possession of huge sums of money which would more than pay for that run. His fortunes had changed, he was no longer the penniless spouse Michelle had sneered at. Alas - and this is where the sorrow enters Garrow's writing - Barack himself had changed as well. He was no longer the idealistic community organizer of the past, no longer the fun-loving and outgoing person he'd once been. Instead, he was a cold, withdrawn individual who distanced himself from his old friends, abandoned his old alliances, displayed loyalty to no one but Michelle (and Valerie Jarrett). Garrow never puts it into words but it's clear nonetheless; Barack had sold out.
Needless to say, the Leftist establishment does NOT view Garrow's book kindly. It's bad enough 'Rising Star' uncovers Obama's failures, it's worse that Garrow's astounding research is so precise, so accurate it's impossible to disprove his revelations of those failures. It's no comfort to Obama's disillusioned followers that Garrow is as upset as they. I'm certain in my heart he would have given anything to have come up with a different conclusion for his subject. Alas, however, Garrow is a prisoner of his phenomenal skills as a researcher and his own honesty. The result is a brilliant sorrowful book on a man who ultimately betrayed the hope he had promised to the world - and himself.