Barack Obama: The Writer Who Became President

Updated on February 28, 2018
harrynielsen profile image

New World history is a rich field that is constantly being analyzed for new material. The complexity of these tales never fails to amaze me.

Barack Obama with his stepfather, mother and half sister.
Barack Obama with his stepfather, mother and half sister.

Early Years

Despite a few headlines to the contrary, Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1961. His early life was influenced by a divorce of his parents and his mother's remarriage, which took him to Indonesia until he turned ten. At that point in time, Obama returned to the Hawaiian islands, where he would eventually graduate from high school. The college years took Barack Obama first to Occidental College in Los Angeles and finally to Columbia University, where he received an undergraduate degree in political science.

After college, Obama spent several years in the private sector before he was accepted to Harvard Law School, where he earned his law degree in 1991. With degree in hand, Barack Obama returned to Chicago, where he worked after his college graduation. The future president would be hired by a prominent city law firm. Obama also taught Constitutional Law at the prestigious University of Chicago.

Barrack Obama played basketball at his Hawaii high school and on the FBI basketball court in Washington, D.C., where he lost several teeth in pick-up games.
Barrack Obama played basketball at his Hawaii high school and on the FBI basketball court in Washington, D.C., where he lost several teeth in pick-up games.

Obama's First Memoir

Barack Obama's first book, Dreams of My Father, was released in the summer of 1995, as Obama was starting his first political campaign for the Illinois Senate. Even though Barack Obama lost this race the book was a big success, both commercially and critically. According to the NY Times, Obama deliberately modeled the story after a novel, written by Ralph Ellison, called The Invisible Man.

Basically, the memoir covered the first years of Barack Obama's life going up to the point, where he was excepted into Harvard Law School. One of the dominant themes of the book revolves around a father, he barely new. Obama's parents divorced when the future president was very young, and as a result Obama saw very little of his father. And then at age , Barack Obama's was killed in a car wreck in Kenya, his father's place of birth.

A Reader Takes a Look at Dreams From My Father (recent)

Literary Reception

Barack Obama's memoir in general received very high marks. Perhaps Joe Klein of Time Magazine, summed the story up best, when he wrote "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician."

Obama speaking before the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.
Obama speaking before the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston.

The Audacity of Hope

In 2004, as junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama delivered a nationally televised speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention that was titled, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. Two years later Obama released the book version of the speech, reinforcing the ideas that he had outlined in his 2004 speech.

Like the speech, the book was well-received. With book sales going well into the millions, The Audacity of Hope became a fixture on the NY Times Bestseller List. It is believed that the combined sales of Obama's two books have exceeded the four million mark (copies sold), making him the best-selling presidential author of all time. Far behind Obama is Jimmy Carter, who after publishing 23 different titles, has only amassed a little over 2 million books in print.

Furthermore, since both of Obama's books were released before he became president, many of the sales have been enhanced by his presence in the White House.

Literary Reception for The Audacity of Hope

Though not a memoir, like its predecessor, The Audacity of Hope was certainly a popular book, for it stayed on the NY Times bestseller list for 30 weeks. In essence, The Audacity of Hope became a political dissertation on politics in the 21st century and what the soon-to-be presidential candidate thought the important issues of the day really were.

Former presidential candidate Gary Hart called the book, Obama's "thesis submission" for the U.S. presidency, while the NY Times noted that (the book) "is much more of a political document. Portions of the volume read like outtakes from a stump speech."

Michelle and Barack Both Get Book Deals

The Deal

Around March 1, 1917 it was announced that Penguin Division of Random House Books had won the bidding war for the rights to publish two post-presidential books. One will be by Barack Obama and one will be by Michelle Obama. According to various sources, the total deal will be worth just over 60 million. No release dates have been announced nor was any content been discussed in much detail, except that both books would be memoirs.

The Birther Controversey

Since Donald Trump became president, the question surrounding Barrack Obama's birthplace has all but faded away. This situation has been aided by both the president and vice-president, who how admit that Barack Obama was indeed born in Hawaii and not Kenya.

Still, the question remains, how did all this bruhaha get started. One possible source is the literary agency for Barack Obama, Dystel & Acton, who in 1991, published a large list of authors, represented by the agency. Along with their names was some pertinent information about each author. One of the authors listed was Barack Obama, though he had not come out with Dreams of My Fathers. And then along with his name, the agency incorrectly provided Obama's place of birth as Kenya. As some researchers have suggested, perhaps a little bit more fact-checking could have prevented a lot of controversy.

Sources Political Bestsellers: Which Politician Has Sold the Most Books What the Obamas' $65 million Book Deal Actually Means Dreams from My Father The Audacity of Hope Barack Obama Obama's Literary Agency Error

© 2018 Harry Nielsen


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    • harrynielsen profile imageAUTHOR

      Harry Nielsen 

      2 years ago from Durango, Colorado

      Those little misprints can come back to haunt you.

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for setting straight the facts about his birth, and for all the other interesting details you mentioned. So he was a writer before becoming president, and will be after.


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