The Obamas by Peter Firstbrook
The Untold Story of an African Family

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Synopsis

"Fascinating...adds many interesting details to what we know of the President’s heritage."
--David Remnick, TheNewYorker.com

On January 20, 2009, a few hundred men, women, and children gathered under trees in the twilight at K’obama, a village on the shores of Lake Victoria in western Kenya. Barack Obama’s rise to the American presidency had captivated people around the world, but members of this gathering took a special pride in the swearing in of America’s first black president, for they were all Obamas, all the president’s direct African family.
 
In the first in-depth history of the Obama family, Peter Firstbrook recounts a journey that starts in a mud hut by the White Nile and ends seven centuries later in the White House. Interweaving oral history and tribal lore, interviews with Obama family members and other Kenyans, the writings of Kenyan historians, and original genealogical research, Firstbrook sets the fascinating story of the president’s family against the background of Kenya’s rich culture and complex history.
 
He tells the story of farmers and fishermen, of healers and hunters, of families lost and found, establishing for the first time the early ancestry of the Obamas. From the tribe’s cradleland in southern Sudan, he follows the family generation by generation, tracing the paths of the famous Luo warriors—Obama’s direct ancestors—and vividly illuminating Luo politics, society, and traditions.
 
Firstbrook also brings to life the impact of English colonization in Africa through the eyes of President Obama’s grandfather Onyango. An ambitious and disciplined man who fought in two world wars, witnessed the bloody Mau Mau insurrection, and saw his country gain independence from white rule, Onyango was also hot-tempered and autocratic: family lore has it that President Obama’s grandmother abandoned the family after Onyango attempted to murder her. And Firstbrook delves into the troubled life of Obama’s father, a promising young man whose aspirations were stymied by post-independence tribal politics and a rash tendency toward self-destruction—two factors that his family believes contributed to his death in 1982. They say it was no accident, as described in the president’s memoirs, but rather a politically motivated hit job.
 
More than a tale of love and war, hardship and hard-won success, The Obamas reveals a family history—epic in scope yet intimate in feel—that is truly without precedent.
 

About Peter Firstbrook

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PETER FIRSTBROOK worked for the BBC for twenty-five years as a director and producer, specializing in history and international documentaries and winning more than thirty international filmmaking awards. He has traveled and worked in Africa for over 30 years. His previous books include Lost on Everest, which was published in seven languages.
 
Published February 8, 2011 by Crown. 352 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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Former BBC documentary director and producer Firstbrook (Surviving the Iron Age, 2003, etc.) takes care to note that Barack Obama is, of course, of mixed ethnic ancestry, “about 37 percent English, with additional contributions from German, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and Swiss forebears.” Even so, h...

Jan 11 2011 | Read Full Review of The Obamas: The Untold Story ...

Christian Science Monitor

"The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family," by Peter Firstbrook (Crown, 352 pp.) Author and filmmaker Peter Firstbrook traces Barack Obama's family back to Kenya.

Jan 03 2011 | Read Full Review of The Obamas: The Untold Story ...

Christian Science Monitor

Barack Obama never lived in Kenya and he met his African-born biological father only once (at the age of 10, when his father visited him in Hawaii for part of a day).

Jan 24 2011 | Read Full Review of The Obamas: The Untold Story ...

The Bookbag

Summary: This rather scholarly, timely and detailed book concentrates on the Obama ancestry.

Jul 04 2010 | Read Full Review of The Obamas: The Untold Story ...

Bookmarks Magazine

An ambitious and disciplined man who fought in two world wars, witnessed the bloody Mau Mau insurrection, and saw his country gain independence from white rule, Onyango was also hot-tempered and autocratic: family lore has it that President Obama’s grandmother abandoned the family after Onyango a...

Jan 31 2011 | Read Full Review of The Obamas: The Untold Story ...

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