The Life and Rise of Barack Obama
Publication Date: April 6, 2010
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No story has been more central to America’s history this century than the rise of Barack Obama, and until now, no journalist or historian has written a book that fully investigates the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obama’s own best-selling memoir or his campaign speeches know the touchstones and details that he chooses to emphasize, but now—from a writer whose gift for illuminating the historical significance of unfolding events is without peer—we have a portrait, at once masterly and fresh, nuanced and unexpected, of a young man in search of himself, and of a rising politician determined to become the first African-American president.
The Bridge offers the most complete account yet of Obama’s tragic father, a brilliant economist who abandoned his family and ended his life as a beaten man; of his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who had a child as a teenager and then built her career as an anthropologist living and studying in Indonesia; and of the succession of elite institutions that first exposed Obama to the social tensions and intellectual currents that would force him to imagine and fashion an identity for himself. Through extensive on-the-record interviews with friends and teachers, mentors and disparagers, family members and Obama himself, David Remnick allows us to see how a rootless, unaccomplished, and confused young man created himself first as a community organizer in Chicago, an experience that would not only shape his urge to work in politics but give him a home and a community, and that would propel him to Harvard Law School, where his sense of a greater mission emerged.
Deftly setting Obama’s political career against the galvanizing intersection of race and politics in Chicago’s history, Remnick shows us how that city’s complex racial legacy would make Obama’s forays into politics a source of controversy and bare-knuckle tactics: his clashes with older black politicians in the Illinois State Senate, his disastrous decision to challenge the former Black Panther Bobby Rush for Congress in 2000, the sex scandals that would decimate his more experienced opponents in the 2004 Senate race, and the story—from both sides—of his confrontation with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. By looking at Obama’s political rise through the prism of our racial history, Remnick gives us the conflicting agendas of black politicians: the dilemmas of men like Jesse Jackson, John Lewis, and Joseph Lowery, heroes of the civil rights movement, who are forced to reassess old loyalties and understand the priorities of a new generation of African-American leaders.
The Bridge revisits the American drama of race, from slavery to civil rights, and makes clear how Obama’s quest is not just his own but is emblematic of a nation where destiny is defined by individuals keen to imagine a future that is different from the reality of their current lives.
“If you care about American politics, you have to read The Bridge.” –Salon
“Writing with emotional precision and a sure knowledge of politics, Mr. Remnick situates Mr. Obama’s career firmly within a historical context.” –Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“A brilliantly constructed, flawlessly written biography.” – Douglas Brinkley, The Los Angeles Times
“Exhaustively researched…Remnick has many important additions and corrections to make to our reading of “Dreams From My Father”…The book’s insights into Obama’s character will be very useful for understanding the man’s performance as president.” –Garry Wills, The New York Times Book Review
“An expansive work…Recounting a pivotal March 2007 speech in Selma, Remnick writes that Obama’s words were ‘at once personal, tribal, national and universal.’ The same can be said of The Bridge.” –Time
“Remnick deserves credit for telling Obama’s story more completely than others, for lending a reporter’s zeal to the task, for not ducking the discussion of race and for peeling back several layers of the onion that is Barack Obama.” –The Washington Post
“What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. He weaves in hours of on-the-record interviews with schoolmates, teachers, mentors, advisers and scholars…rich in reflections and refractions.” –Bloomberg.com
“Superb. Beautifully written and artfully constructed.” –The Economist
“Eminently readable…the great achievement of the book is that Remnick manages to say something different…Remnick himself is a bridge—to seeing fresh a man we think we know but only now, in his hard days in the White House, are beginning to understand.” –The Boston Globe
“An insightful, nuanced look at the making of the 44ths president, placing his career in the context of history.” –Chicago Tribune
“There are a few people of such skill that envy gives way to admiration, and one is left feeling not hostility but respect. Remnick is one of those exceptional practitioners…Remnick's biography depends not on nuggets but on his characteristically dispassionate, richly observed assessment of his subject. Without sermonizing or sentimentalizing, Remnick sheds light on the complicated role of race in Obama's rise and victory and, perhaps most relevantly, in the conduct of his presidency.” –Jonathan Meacham, Newsweek
“Ambitious and well executed…It’s fair and high-minded, sensitive but dispassionate, admiring but never fawning…It’s this mix of intellect, fact, and feeling that distinguish Remnick’s assessment of Obama’s victory.”–Time Out New York
“His work will serve as a building block for all future works on Obama…lovely and assured.” –Entertainment Weekly
"What Remnick brings to a complex story are the tools of an exceptional reporter: persistence, curiosity, insight. He weaves in hours of on-the-record interviews with schoolmates, teachers, mentors, advisers and scholars…rich in reflections and refractions." –Bloomberg.com
"Superb. Beautifully written and artfully constructed." –The Economist
"Eminently readable…the great achievement of the book is that Remnick manages to say something different…Remnick himself is a bridge—to seeing fresh a man we think we know but only now, in his hard days in the White House, are beginning to understand." –The Boston Globe
"An insightful, nuanced look at the making of the 44ths president, placing his career in the context of history." –Chicago Tribune
"Energetic…offers shrewd insights…Some of the best pages in the book are [Remnick’s] sustained reappraisal of Obama’s memoir.’ –The New York Review
"No other book to date is better at revealing the roots and personality of Barack Obama. Remnick has set a lofty bar for future biographers." –Library Journal
"A world-ranging, eye-opening, comprehensive life to date of the 44th President." –Kirkus
"A lively and enjoyable biography that is likely to remain definitive…Remnick should already be planning a sequel." –Washington Monthly
“Remnick’s views have the capacity to jolt…like his subject, Remnick wields a skilful and nuanced pen. None, except those who (somewhat unsubtly) want to ‘take America back’, could fail to be moved.” –The Financial Times
“Has many important additions and corrections to make to our reading of Dreams from My Father.” –New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2010
“A balanced, highly readable and well-researched account.” –Financial Times non-fiction favorites of 2010
“Beautifully written, artfully constructed and full of new detail about the president.” –The Economist
“A truly masterful account.” –The Daily Beast