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The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  128 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
"Fascinating...adds many interesting details to what we know of the President’s heritage."
--David Remnick,

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 worl
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 8th 2011 by Crown (first published July 1st 2010)
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Oct 26, 2012 Louise rated it it was amazing
Shelves: obama
I've heard it said that the best way to get your family genealogy prepared is to run for a high public office. It's been published (true?) that on his mother's side President Obama is distant kin to Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Here is a genealogy for his father. It is not a recitation of names and dates and places. It tells the fascinating story of the President's African family and places it within the history of the Luo tribe and the development of what we know today as Kenya.

Firstbrook beg
Scott Klemm
Apr 19, 2011 Scott Klemm rated it really liked it
"I found Peter Firstbrook’s "The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family" fascinating. I learned, for example, that most of the Obamas were Seventh Day Adventists (not Muslims), and that Obama is presumably a corruption of the name Mobam. (You need to read the book to find out what this means.) Also, Firstbrook presents compelling arguments that should put to rest the “birther” controversy.

One of the things that drew my attention to the book was that it provided a general survey of the hi

Starred Review The most famous family in Kenya—and, indeed, the world—provides the context for exploring the broader history of that nation as documentary filmmaker Firstbrook explores the Obama family legacy. He draws on academic historical research as well as oral history and interviews to trace Barack Obama’s family history back 23 generations. Part of the Luo, the second largest tribe in Kenya (following the Kikuyu), the Obama family traversed through several ancestral lands before rel

Apr 04, 2012 Daniel rated it liked it
A "family biography" is a rare work indeed when it comes to the African continent. My own PhD research is trying to fill this gap, so I was interested in Firstbrook's attempt with the Obama family.

He does a very admirable job. His experience as a journalist brings an easy to read style that synthesizes things well. He also includes some unique tidbits on African history not present in the typical Kenyan scholarly works (e.g. Muhimu during Mau Mau). Also, his access to the Obama family and the or
Jan 23, 2012 S'hi rated it it was ok
Reading this book before other books about Barack Obama gave it a freshness which made it passable, but something irritated me about it. The constant referral to how many generations until the first black American president. When immersed in the tales of African tribes I found this an unwanted intrusion which continually unsettled me.

Later, when I had read Obama himself, I also felt some of the strands in this book were not as 'personal from this writer' as they were made out to be. It increased
Mar 12, 2011 Steven rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, presidents
The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family is an interesting mix of the history and origin of the Obama family and the history of Kenya. The book explores the origins of the Luo tribe, how they migrated to the Eastern coast of Lake Victoria and how they responded to cultural changes brought by European exploration and colonization. The book provides details of the most recent generations of the Obama family and shows how national politics, family politics, religious differences and cultur ...more
Apr 25, 2011 Lynne rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Obamas in Africa are traced back to the 15th century, so this book is really about African history, in particular, Kenya. The most interesting part was about the Luo culture of Obama's great grandfather. Contemporary Kenyan politics became a sad story of tribal conflict and corruption. Obama's father was also a tragic figure with much promise (a Harvard graduate) who seemed to lack a moral compass. Our president is fortunate that a strong woman and her parents raised him, not his father.
May 28, 2014 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite a lineage. Barack Sr. was a gifted scholar, avowed atheist, polygamist, alcoholic who physically and emotionally abused his wives and killed several people driving drunk before eventually ending his own life that way. Onyango, the President's grandfather, travelled the world and served with honour in both world wars in the King's African Rifles. He was a practicing Muslim, and a polygamist, who made substantial sacrifices to educate his children in the best British Mission schools availabl ...more
May 30, 2014 Estelle rated it really liked it
Traces President Obama's patrimonial lineage from the diaspora of the people from southern Sudan to travels through Uganda, and settlement on the shores of Lake Victoria. This was the settlement of the Luo tribe in what is now Kenya. Through historical record and oral history Firstbrook describes the ancestral line of the Obamas, along with a history of Kenya from colonial times through modern-day independence
Ethan Green
There are really two themes in this book. The first of which I really enjoyed- the majority of the book where the author was giving a history of the Luo people, colonial east Africa, and the past Obamas. The second theme really damaged the author's credibility because he repeatedly showered fawning adoration and adulation on the President and denigrated anyone foolish enough to disagree with or dislike Obama.
Barbara Atlas
Feb 22, 2014 Barbara Atlas rated it it was amazing
I liked it because I learned lots of African and Kenyan history, life for the Kenyans under colonial rule, some of the progressive and terrible things the Europeans and Africans did. Dr. Livingston died of illnesses he contracted while exploring Kenya, Stanley was the child of an American prostitute who made himself famous as a journalist. It picked up where Dreams of my Father scratched the surface and left so many questions.
Jan 10, 2013 Felecia rated it liked it
This is the first Ebook I am reading off of my new Kindle. This book was ok. It was a book about President Obama's ancestors and their lives growing up in Africa, and how they were connected to the president. The book focused more on African culture and people, and not so much on President Obama. Still found it interesting to learn about African culture and history though..
Carrie F.
Mar 19, 2011 Carrie F. rated it it was amazing
This book was successful at explaining the tribal culture of Africa. Obama is from the Luo group and the authors traces them to the beginning of the common era. And forward to President Obama's grandfather and father.
Douglas Gorney
Nov 27, 2012 Douglas Gorney rated it really liked it
My interview with author Peter Firstbrook in The Atlantic:
Michael Powell
May 14, 2013 Michael Powell rated it liked it
A little 5 star a lot of 2-3 star
Aasim Waheed
Feb 29, 2016 Aasim Waheed rated it really liked it
Miss Densrienne Frith
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Dec 26, 2015
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Mar 07, 2017
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Dec 28, 2011
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Peter Firstbrook is author of The Voyage of the Matthew (about the explorer John Cabot), Lost on Everest (about George Mallory), and The Obamas: The Untold Story of an African Family. He worked for the BBC for twenty-five years as a television producer, director and executive producer, specializing in historical documentaries. He has won over thirty international awards, including on two occasions ...more
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