c.2007, Black Dog & Leventhal $9.95 / $12.95 Canada 128 pages According to a Gallup survey taken last month, 94% of Americans queried said they’d be willing to vote for an African American candidate for president next year, which leads politicians from both sides to wonder: Will 2008 be the Year of Obama? No matter how you answer that question, you owe it to yourself to learn about all the candidates first, before you head to the polls. In the new biography “Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama” by Steve Dougherty, you’ll read about the charismatic Senator who might just make history. When Barack Obama, “an utterly obscure Illinois state senator”, was tapped to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, many people were surprised. One of them was Obama himself. Afterward, politicians from both parties hailed it as one of the greatest keynote speeches in memory, and Americans sat up and took notice. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, the son of a Kenyan diplomat-student father and a white Kansas-born mother. When Obama (whose first name means “blessed” in Swahili) was two years old, his father moved to New York to pursue further studies. Obama’s mother planned to join her husband at a later time but because of distance, their relationship deteriorated and they divorced. It wasn’t until nine years later that young Barack again met the man whose name he bore, yet Dougherty claims that Obama never really “knew” the man who was his father until after the elder Obama’s death. Because of his maternal grandfather’s connections, Barack Obama was educated at a private Hawaii school and went to college in California, then to Columbia University. After graduation from Columbia, he worked at a series of jobs that made money but didn’t satisfy him. Eventually, he began working with a grassroots community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, a job that offered $10,000 a year with a $2,000 car allowance and that instilled in him ideals and viewpoints that now make him Oprah’s close friend, a Grammy Award winner, a wildly successful author, a paparazzi darling, and – according to hopefuls – possibly the next President of the United States. I liked “Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama”, but I wish it had been a little more neutral and a little less gushing. While author and People magazine writer Steve Dougherty’s version of Obama’s life story is extremely fascinating reading – and the dozens of pictures are great to see – this book felt more to me like a campaign piece than a biography. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t read it, but that you should read between the lines if you intend to learn more about the candidate himself, and not about what others think of him. Still, because this is the first biography of Obama not written by Obama, you really should educate yourself by reading this and every biography on Presidential candidates for ’08. For just under $10, “Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama” gets my vote as a good place to start.
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