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Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President Hardcover – October 12, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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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.
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Review

“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.” ―GapersBlock.com

“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 Salon.com

“[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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; First Edition edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190609
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190607
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,245,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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. This book shows how hard work, informed decisions and training of personnel can yield positive results. I believe we, as Mexican American activists, can learn much from reading this book. It has given me hope in my quest to empower and improve our lives.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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). You see Barack Obama the ambitious young politician. Excelent Read... and pretty quick too.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I learned so much about Black Chicago politics. This book is like the history book that's missing from regular classrooms. I liked hearing about what Barack Obama was like before he was in the national spotlight. Very interesting book.
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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 man. It was a bold claim, but Ted McClelland backs it up with a compelling narrative that melds Chicago's unique political history with Obama's unique personal history. As much as Mike Royko's "Boss" and Nelson Algren's "The Man With The Golden Arm," this book helped me gain some bearings in this sprawling and endlessly fascinating town.
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