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No story has been more central to Americas 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 Obamas life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obamas own best-selling memoir or his campaign speeches know the touchstones and 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.


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No story has been more central to Americas 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 Obamas life or explores the ambition behind his rise. Those familiar with Obamas own best-selling memoir or his campaign speeches know the touchstones and 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.

30 review for The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama

  1. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    To say I liked this book is really not true. It was more of an OK for me. Please the GR book description here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... Now, eight years after the books publication, I doubt that other books have not been written which investigate the circumstances and experiences of Obamas life and the ambition behind his rise. The second and third paragraph of the book description do give a prospective reader what the book covers. The lives of his parents and how their lives came To say I liked this book is really not true. It was more of an OK for me. Please the GR book description here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7... Now, eight years after the book’s publication, I doubt that other books have not been written which investigate “the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life” and “the ambition behind his rise”. The second and third paragraph of the book description do give a prospective reader what the book covers. The lives of his parents and how their lives came to mold his, is well told. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, is a person I have come to admire and would like to read a whole book about. She was born in 1942, in Wichita, Kansas. She is portrayed as a woman of the hippie generation and a woman I easily relate to--an idealist, but not politically oriented. In the second paragraph we are also told that “on-the-record interviews” are extensively utilized, but they are too extensive and lack adequate critical analysis. As editor of The New Yorker, it surprises me that David Remnick did not recognize this! The book goes off on lengthy tangents. It concludes with Obama’s inauguration and a quick summary of what he achieved and failed to achieve in the first year of his presidency. It stresses that he was only able to become the first African-American president because of those in the Civil Rights movement before him. The book is dense. It covers not only Obama but also his forerunners. The more you know before picking up the book, the easier it will be. I was unacquainted with many of the Chicago politicians and religious leaders mentioned. Remnick has a penchant for giving long lists of names. Many books and authors are referred to. It is glaringly evident that the author is an editor. I did not get the feeling that the books mentioned are those Remnick necessarily loves and recommends, but rather that literature is an integral part of his existence. The audiobook is read by Mark Deakins. He reads too quickly, although his words are clear and distinct. There is too much information to absorb for a book read so rapidly. I have given the narration two stars. Having read the book, do I feel I have a better understanding of Obama’s personality? Yes, but not as much as much as I would have liked. His relationship with his wife and children is scarcely delved into. I have learned about events in his life and in his career. His ambition to become a politician, coupled to his desire to improve the rights for minorities, fight poverty and improve health care and access to education has been made clear.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I very much doubt there'll be a better biography of Barack Obama, at least not within the next decade or so, because this book is truly excellent. I came away from it not just with a better understanding of Obama, but the civil rights movement and race relations in America in general. It really clarified my image of Obama as an extraordinary man - not necessarily an extraordinary President, because history will tell on that one, and simply being the first African-American President in no way I very much doubt there'll be a better biography of Barack Obama, at least not within the next decade or so, because this book is truly excellent. I came away from it not just with a better understanding of Obama, but the civil rights movement and race relations in America in general. It really clarified my image of Obama as an extraordinary man - not necessarily an extraordinary President, because history will tell on that one, and simply being the first African-American President in no way guarantees that his presidency will prove a success. But no-one less than extraordinary could have the rise Obama had, to go from an Illinois state senator to President of the United States in four years. 'The bridge' in the title refers not just to the attack on peaceful civil rights demonstrators by armed officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, but also the way Obama perceives himself and his role in politics. With a white mother and African father, Obama deliberately carved out a role for himself as an African-American - he wasn't born with that perception of himself and he grew up largely removed from the race context in America. And it's interesting how many people who knew Obama as a child and teenager said the same variation of 'I never thought of Barack as black'. Obama chose to position himself as an African-America, but one with a unique insight and understanding of whites as well. He saw himself as a man of two cultures, a man capable of living in and understanding both, a man who could act as a living bridge. And that perception influenced his entire political career - he consistently strove to act as a mediator between parties, a conciliator, someone who could reconcile opposing viewpoints. How successful he proves at doing that in the vicious partisan world of Washington politics is something for another book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Moore

    This book falls into the trap of being an authorized biography with its bias. Remnick interviews people who met Obama twenty years ago and claim they called it in the early 90s that he would be the first black president, and he is not critical about this at all. For Remnick, this is all part of the grand narrative of Obama's somewhat messianic rise. Throughout the book, Obama is portrayed as so intelligent, so all encompassing, so engrossing that the characters who cross paths with him fawn This book falls into the trap of being an authorized biography with its bias. Remnick interviews people who met Obama twenty years ago and claim they called it in the early 90s that he would be the first black president, and he is not critical about this at all. For Remnick, this is all part of the grand narrative of Obama's somewhat messianic rise. Throughout the book, Obama is portrayed as so intelligent, so all encompassing, so engrossing that the characters who cross paths with him fawn after him or dislike him for racist or petty reasons. Remnick is only sympathetic to older civil rights leaders who, in his view, had reason to distrust this upstart who did not share their struggle. Indeed, Harvard, the Illinois State Senate, the US Senate are (according to Remnick) to small a stage for an intellect as great as Obama's, and he was destined for something greater. The aforementioned issues with the book become particular noxious about halfway when Obama, now a Harvard grad, is making his initial political connections in Chicago. The Bridge became so sycophantic at about this point that I had to take a month break and read something else. Despite its issues, The Bridge does a good job of filling in a personal history for Obama in the first third of the book. I learned a great deal about his early formative years. I also thought the last quarter of the book that dealt with his presidential campaign, particularly the tough primary against Hillary Clinton, provided excellent insight in to the rigors of running an uphill presidential bid. Little attention is given to the general election race against John McCain as the McCain ticket is (as expected from an author with such a myopic leftist worldview) dismissed as weak, racist and conspiratorial. Finally, the book does a good job of placing Obama's rise in the context of African-American history and as the culmination of the civil rights movement. I won't go so far as to recommend this book. I will say read it with the author's heavy bias in mind, but rather I'd recommend waiting for a more academic post-presidency bio in 10 or 15 years.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    This dense and detailed look at a moment in history when Obama began his run for the White House in the end gives the reader the sense of a blind man running his hands over an elephant, or Galileo gazing at the stars. The detail just makes one jealous to know those things we are not reading about--what was he thinking, not just what he was saying. One wants the man himself, not just the story of him. In the end, every book about this period is bound to be a disappointment in itself. It cannot This dense and detailed look at a moment in history when Obama began his run for the White House in the end gives the reader the sense of a blind man running his hands over an elephant, or Galileo gazing at the stars. The detail just makes one jealous to know those things we are not reading about--what was he thinking, not just what he was saying. One wants the man himself, not just the story of him. In the end, every book about this period is bound to be a disappointment in itself. It cannot capture the utter impossibility of the moment--the day by day disbelief of hearing Obama is still in the race and gaining, rather than losing adherents. Of Obama facing challenges (Reverend Wright) greater than those that had brought down more conventional candidates (Kerry's Swift boat controversy), and emerging even larger than before. It does not tell us, in the end, how this happened. But among books of the period, this will rank among the best. Remick's calm amidst the forest of details, and clear, thoughtful delivery make him a companionable guide. He is not so casual as to make one doubt his sources, but he does not flaunt his erudition or access. This must be one of the most readable tomes on a time when Americans suprised everyone--even Americans.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Theon Hill

    Although this book is written from a decidedly favorable perspective, it offers a excellent history of the life and times of Barack Obama. From his childhood to education to his early political career, I found book to be compelling and full of fascinating information about the 44th president of the United States. Those from Chicagoland (like me) will find the sections on the history of Chicago politics to be particularly interesting.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Flatley

    Terrific. One of several definitive books about the President and campaign. Recommend highly. You can never go wrong w/ Remnick's writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

    This was an excellent biography that revealed many different facets of the man who is our president. David Remnick's research is comprehensive. He did not shy away from reporting what some of Obama's detractors have to say, but clearly Obama has made more friends than enemies among the people he has met directly and/or befriended. I was particularly interested in his early life as a black child raised by white people-- his grandparents. Because I have two adopted African grandsons, I enjoyed the This was an excellent biography that revealed many different facets of the man who is our president. David Remnick's research is comprehensive. He did not shy away from reporting what some of Obama's detractors have to say, but clearly Obama has made more friends than enemies among the people he has met directly and/or befriended. I was particularly interested in his early life as a black child raised by white people-- his grandparents. Because I have two adopted African grandsons, I enjoyed the discussion of his youth and young adulthood and the manner in which he came to establish his own identity. Remnick couches his research in the context of the racial history of our country which was quite fascinating. I think this book will prove an important document regarding what people who lived and worked with Obama thought about his life in the years preceding his election as President. It's made me want to read other presidential biographies.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary Verdick

    Inspirational and Revealing! Fascinating journey and ascent of a younng black man, who in the beginning seemed to have little going for him. With a brilliant, but self-delusional Kenyan father, who deserted him as a baby and a devoted, but often absent mother, Barack (known as Barry growing up)learned at an early age that he had to more or less shift for himself. Fortunately he met the right people along the way who helped him on his journey, and he didn't waste time feeling sorry for himself. Inspirational and Revealing! Fascinating journey and ascent of a younng black man, who in the beginning seemed to have little going for him. With a brilliant, but self-delusional Kenyan father, who deserted him as a baby and a devoted, but often absent mother, Barack (known as Barry growing up)learned at an early age that he had to more or less shift for himself. Fortunately he met the right people along the way who helped him on his journey, and he didn't waste time feeling sorry for himself. Instead with a singleness of purpose he forged ahead, overcoming all obstacles by his tenacity and courage, to become what many thought was impossible--our very first African-American president.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Breanne

    This book took me longer to read than any I have picked up in a long time. Usually I could not put a book down, but this one I almost had to, just to digest the information. There is an excellent backdrop of American history in this book, especially with the civil rights movement. There were quite a few things I learned about reading this book. I think that anyone could enjoy this, regardless of your personal opinion of Barack Obama, or your political beliefs. It was an amazing book for laying This book took me longer to read than any I have picked up in a long time. Usually I could not put a book down, but this one I almost had to, just to digest the information. There is an excellent backdrop of American history in this book, especially with the civil rights movement. There were quite a few things I learned about reading this book. I think that anyone could enjoy this, regardless of your personal opinion of Barack Obama, or your political beliefs. It was an amazing book for laying out the life of a man who not only broke a historical barrier, but also was handed a country in crisis. This book was amazing, and helped me to look at a lot of my beliefs in this country, and what things like racism, patriotism, civil duty and women's rights mean to me. This is a wonderful biography, that I would recommend that anyone with an interest in politics or history read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bookmarks Magazine

    Most reviewers were pleasantly surprised to find that anyone could find anything new to say about the president, since he is one of the most scrutinized people on the planet and has already written two memoirs. But Remnick pulls off The Bridge, in part, through innovative and exhaustive research. Several critics remarked how Remnick's reporting expanded their views of the Obama of Dreams From my Father; others were grateful for the author's elucidation of the president's crucial years in Most reviewers were pleasantly surprised to find that anyone could find anything new to say about the president, since he is one of the most scrutinized people on the planet and has already written two memoirs. But Remnick pulls off The Bridge, in part, through innovative and exhaustive research. Several critics remarked how Remnick's reporting expanded their views of the Obama of Dreams From my Father; others were grateful for the author's elucidation of the president's crucial years in Chicago. But the book's key trait, and what may even find it some readers among skeptics of the president, is Remnick's nuanced reading of how Obama discovered an identity in the struggles of African American history--before he went on to be a part of that history. This is an excerpt from a review published in Bookmarks magazine.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Willem

    5 stars for Obama, 4 for the book

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kalimah Priforce

    I was very impressed with the connection David Remnick made of Malcom X and Pres. Obama (on Charlie Rose 4/6/2010) which is often largely ignored.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2019... David Remnicks The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama was published in 2010 and covers the 44th presidents life from his birth through his 2009 inauguration. Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998. He began his reporting career at The Washington Post in 1982. This 586-page biography is clearly the result of exhaustive research which included interviews with an impressive array of Obamas family, https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2019... David Remnick’s “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” was published in 2010 and covers the 44th president’s life from his birth through his 2009 inauguration. Remnick is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998. He began his reporting career at The Washington Post in 1982. This 586-page biography is clearly the result of exhaustive research which included interviews with an impressive array of Obama’s family, friends, colleagues and competitors – as well as with Obama himself. Tracking his political ascent up to the presidency, this biography is a synthesis of the unique personal influences and public forces which shaped his character and catalyzed his extraordinary success. The book’s first half reviews Obama’s ancestry, his childhood, schooling and pre-political career. While generally interesting, some of this coverage is dense and difficult to follow. The relative complexity of Obama’s youth certainly contributes to the sensation of this being an uncommonly sinuous story. But transitions between topics are not always clear and, in hindsight, it is obvious that another reading of these chapters would have been clarifying. The second half of the biography follows Obama to the Illinois State House, the U.S. Senate and, of course, the White House. By this point, Remnick’s narrative is running at full stride and the book becomes difficult to put down. It ends with a brief Epilogue outlining some of the early challenges facing Obama in his new executive role and almost seems to foreshadow a follow-up volume. There are numerous interesting sections and chapters, including coverage of Obama’s selection as president of the Harvard Law Review and his subsequent efforts to plant roots in Chicago’s political arena. The story of his early days as a U.S. Senator is also engrossing. But the most valuable chapter in the book is one wholly devoted to dissecting and analyzing the motivations behind (and the meaning and significance of) Obama’s 1995 memoir “”Dreams of My Father.” Several critical supporting characters receive particularly nice introductions including Laurence Tribe, David Axelrod, Jeremiah Wright and, of course, Michelle Robinson. And Obama’s 2008 campaign for the presidency is both unconventional (because it does not attempt to review every important aspect of the campaign) and remarkably successful (because its focus on racial issues is extremely incisive and very well-handled). But many readers will find Remnick’s writing style dense and dry, and his insistence on injecting long quotes into the text can be wearing. He is not a natural storyteller in the traditional (biographical) sense and this book lacks the drama and excitement which should accompany a story featuring such an extraordinary and rapid political ascent. Finally, there is disappointingly little on the bond between Barack and Michelle. Although she appears in the narrative when necessary, the future First Lady never remains on-scene for long and the reader is left to wonder how this talented and seemingly strong-willed woman influenced his personal and political evolution. Overall, David Remnick’s “The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama” is deep, ponderous and praiseworthy. While it never fully radiates the energy or passion of the larger-than-life story it conveys, its messages and lessons are deep and revealing for the attentive reader. We can only hope Remnick decides to eventually follow up this biography with one covering Obama’s presidency. Overall rating: 4¼ stars

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    I am enjoying taking my time in this book. I am about half-way through. Here is my favorite sentiment so far: "Narrative is the most powerful thing we have. From a spiritual point of view, much of what is important about us can't be seen. If we don't know people's stories, we don't know who they are. If you want to understand them or try to help them, you have to find out their story." (Jerry Kellman, community organizer in South Side Chicago). "He (Obama) had learned a lot from books, but there I am enjoying taking my time in this book. I am about half-way through. Here is my favorite sentiment so far: "Narrative is the most powerful thing we have. From a spiritual point of view, much of what is important about us can't be seen. If we don't know people's stories, we don't know who they are. If you want to understand them or try to help them, you have to find out their story." (Jerry Kellman, community organizer in South Side Chicago). "He (Obama) had learned a lot from books, but there was something far more immediate, visceral, and lasting about the education he was getting now. It was the nature of his work to ask questions, to listen. He called the narratives he was collecting "sacred stories." Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Obama's life is extraordinary. After reading this book, I am most impressed by a couple of things: 1) His life represents so much progress in terms of what it means to be an American. 2) His presidency represents so much of how much further we have to progress as Americans. I loved this book because it is as much a Civil Rights narrative as it is Barak Obama's story. Yes, I get teary when I read Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes. I get chills when I imagine the emotional tenor of the march over the bridge in Selma. And I am proud to live in a country that elected a minority as president. I will also say that David Remnick is a great author...he managed to make a book about politics very accessible to an average, everyday reader like me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hebah Dwidari

    I enjoyed reading this book. It gave me an insight into the former presidents upbringing

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jim Leffert

    This lengthy (591 pages) book tells us in considerable detail all that we already know about the life and election of Obama, with some added information, based on Remnicks extensive interviewing and research, plus perspective offered by Remnick. Remnick situates Obamas life and rise to the Presidency within the history of race in America. Obama represents the Joshua generation, a generation that missed out on the struggles and heroics of the Civil Rights movement era but having benefited from This lengthy (591 pages) book tells us in considerable detail all that we already know about the life and election of Obama, with some added information, based on Remnick’s extensive interviewing and research, plus perspective offered by Remnick. Remnick situates Obama’s life and rise to the Presidency within the history of race in America. Obama represents the “Joshua generation”, a generation that missed out on the struggles and heroics of the Civil Rights movement era but having benefited from new opportunities, strove to make a mark on contemporary society. For Obama, who grew up in Hawaii with a biracial (Kansas and African) background, identifying himself as African American was a conscious choice. Chicago was where Obama immersed himself—and married into--the urban African American community and solidified his developing identity. Remnick situates Obama’s remarkable memoir, Dreams of My Father, as successor to a long history of African American literature in which people (Frederic Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others) wrote memoirs in which they recounted their life story of slavery and/or persecution and asserted their personhood and identity. Remnick points out that when right wing agitators in 2008 claimed that Obama didn’t really write this book (suggesting that it had been ghost written by William Ayres), they were reviving a 200 year old tradition of skepticism that Negroes were capable of writing eloquently about their lives—the only difference was that escaped slaves’ narratives typically had a preface by a white person testifying to skeptical readers that the person really was the author, whereas Obama, writing at the dawn of the 21st century, was able to omit this preface. Remnick’s portrait of Obama is of someone who is brilliant and impressive—people who met him kept insisting that he was special--who had outsize ambition that led him, early on, to aspire to higher office. A moderate liberal who was by nature a conciliator, Obama consistently, during his time at Harvard Law School and later as a professor, gained the respect of conservative legal scholars as a liberal who nonetheless respected them and listened to their viewpoints. He was elected editor of the Harvard Law Review with their support and ensured that their scholarly work was published. Later, as a law school professor, he was careful to expose his students to conservative writings in his classes, so that they could grapple with a full range of legal philosophies and opinions. Obama’s notable speech, while a state senator, opposing the Iraq War, was carefully worded and lawyerly—he emphasized that he was not against fighting wars—he was against fighting a stupid war. It must have come as a shock to Obama, despite his realism about politics, to be vilified, once in office, by Republicans as a radical socialist. Unlike the civil rights leaders of the 60’s and 70’s, preachers and agitators who articulated the grievances of their community, Obama is a mainstream politician. He feels totally at home with white people and appealed to the wider electorate. From the earliest days of his career, he had to contend with people in the African American community who disparaged him for not being black enough. In the section on the 2008 Presidential campaign, Remnick describes Obama’s struggle to woo the white electorate while convincing skeptical black voters that he represented their aspirations and, furthermore, was a realistic option, rather than being a marginal, race-based candidate. The book starts with the Obama’s Selma speech, in which he succeeded in connecting his personal history to the legacy of the civil rights struggle. Remnick recounts how as the campaign progressed, Obama succeeded in pushing aside Hillary Clinton, much to Clinton’s dismay and grievance, even though she had started the race with an enormous reservoir of support in the African-American community. Remnick acknowledges that besides Martin Luther King, the person who did the most to pave the way for Obama’s election was George W. Bush! Remnick’s book nonetheless ends by celebrating how America took a step forward toward a less racially divided society through this landmark event.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Blog on Books

    You would have to be living under a rock, as they say, not to have noticed New Yorker editor David Remnick making the rounds of the news-talk shows the last few weeks in support of his new book, The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama. Remnick has appeared on virtually every show and newspaper column and seemingly for good reason. For as much as there are more Obama books on the market than any first year president in recent memory, The Bridge stands out as the one book, save Obamas own You would have to be living under a rock, as they say, not to have noticed New Yorker editor David Remnick making the rounds of the news-talk shows the last few weeks in support of his new book, ‘The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama.’ Remnick has appeared on virtually every show and newspaper column and seemingly for good reason. For as much as there are more Obama books on the market than any first year president in recent memory, ‘The Bridge’ stands out as the one book, save Obama’s own ‘Dreams of My Father,’ that does a deep dive into the political past of the nation’s first African-American president and the decisions, factors and historical touchstones that led him to the top job. In Remnick’s 656-page volume, the author painstakingly goes back and reassembles the now-president’s life in a way that is both personal and political. Remnick portrays the story of a rapid, albeit sometimes random, journey from student life in Hawaii, to his studies at Occidental and Harvard, through the famed community organizing era and ultimately to elected positions in the Illinois state legislature, the U.S. Senate and on to the presidency. At various points in the book, the author is not afraid to point out some of Obama’s lackluster moments (i.e. his sometimes idle days both at the Davis Miner law firm and later in the Illinois State Senate, his drubbing in his first congressional run, etc.) while continuing to focus on the search for identity that Obama may have lacked in the early years of his youth. Unlike many of the books on the market, Remnick is not obsessed with the historic presidential part of the story (that is saved for the last quarter of the book) but rather looks closely at Obama’s student years, his time at Harvard including his race for and leadership of the Harvard Law Review, his Chicago community alliances (from Bill Ayers to Chicago Mayor Harold Washington) and much of his work in the Illinois State Senate before coming to Washington. Throughout the book, Remnick is front-of-mind conscious as to how race affected Obama’s journey with repeated references to everyone from MLK to John Lewis to Shirley Chisholm. Remnick’s focus on Obama’s race and the issues it elicits, sometimes seems to be in fact, the focal point of the book. (Even the title ‘The Bridge’ of course, has a double meaning, referring both to Obama as well as a reference to the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama that is often seen as the frontline of the battle for racial equality in March of 1965.) Besides the voluminous interviews and depth of research involved, the strength of Remnick’s book relies on both it’s rather unvarnished view of the Obama history as well as it’s telling of the story from the point of view of many of those closest to the action. The main criticism that seems to be leveled at the book is it’s dryness; it’s ‘court-reporter’ style – a critique we would certainly not dispute. Of course, there will be many books to come on the first African-American president in U.S. history (Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter’s book ‘The Promise’ debuts next month) but to have this kind of extensive tome delivered so early in one’s presidency is either a gift or a sign of our times. Probably both. Bonus: Here is a link to a great new Q&A with David Remnick from the Seattle Times. Enjoy.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    Barack Obamas victory in the 2008 presidential election represented not just a milestone in terms of American history, but a new stage in the nations enduring struggle over race. It was an issue that Obama had to deal with throughout the campaign, not just from whites but from blacks as well, as he faced charges that he was not black enough. In this book David Remnick, the editor of New Yorker magazine, offers us a study of Obamas life within the context of the issue of race. In it, he addresses Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election represented not just a milestone in terms of American history, but a new stage in the nation’s enduring struggle over race. It was an issue that Obama had to deal with throughout the campaign, not just from whites but from blacks as well, as he faced charges that he was not “black” enough. In this book David Remnick, the editor of New Yorker magazine, offers us a study of Obama’s life within the context of the issue of race. In it, he addresses not just the issues that he faced over the course of his life, but how in many respects they reflect the broader challenges that African Americans and whites faced in an era of dramatic change in the notions of race and equality within the nation as a whole. The issue of race emerged early on for Obama. Growing up in Hawai’i, he experienced a very different type of racial environment, one with far greater racial diversity and far less overt animosity, than was the case on the mainland at the time. It was in that unique environment that he first wrestled with the issues of his self-definition, a struggle that continued throughout his college career, first in Los Angeles, then in New York City. By the time he graduated, he was a man comfortable with his own identity and the role he wanted to play within the larger community. Remnick’s account here is traditionally biographical in its scope, drawing considerably upon Obama’s own memoir, Dreams from My Father, but adding to it with the subsequent reporting. He maintains this approach through much of his post-collegiate career, through his time as a community organizer, law school student, and attorney and budding politician. It is with his election to the United States Senate that the focus narrows to the twin issues of Obama’s presidential run and the intertwining of his political aspirations with race. By the time Remnick reaches the end of his book – with the election of Obama to the White House, he has given readers a well-researched and perceptive look at both Barack Obama’s life and the role of race within it. While not comprehensive, it is one of the best biographies of the 44th president that we are likely to have for some time, and one that subsequent studies will rely upon for the wealth of information it provides. Anyone wishing to learn about Barack Obama would do well to start with this clearly written and dispassionate look at Obama, both for the insights it offers into him and for its analysis of a critical dimension of his life and career.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Armin Samii

    an intimate, cautiously hopeful portrait of Obama and the circumstances that led him to be president. the people interviewed, listed at the end, is impressive. I read this as therapy post-#45 and it helped.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    This biography of Barack Obama, by the white editor of "The New Yorker", offers a little more detail about the lives of Obama's parents than hitherto discussed, more detail about his schooling, and much more information about his life as a community organizer and state senator in Illinois, and his subsequent political campaigns. His mother achieved a PhD; she is not usually discussed in detail, but she was a courageous, warm and intelligent person. His father had expected a government role on This biography of Barack Obama, by the white editor of "The New Yorker", offers a little more detail about the lives of Obama's parents than hitherto discussed, more detail about his schooling, and much more information about his life as a community organizer and state senator in Illinois, and his subsequent political campaigns. His mother achieved a PhD; she is not usually discussed in detail, but she was a courageous, warm and intelligent person. His father had expected a government role on his return to Kenya but the politics at the time were not favorable, and he was not flexible enough to seek another career. The author presents Obama's rise in the context of the black civil rights struggle. In his campaigns to be a US senator and then president, fitting into the prejudices of the black community seemed to be far more difficult than gaining acceptance by the white community. He had to struggle for approval from the more militant blacks without identifying with that militancy. "Race", which he tried not to mention in his campaigns, was, nonetheless, the constant subtext, especially with black voters. I lament the submergence of the half-white identity, it feels like a denial.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I am shocked to discover this isnt a best seller, at least didnt reach #1 and stay there, because it is a fascinating book about a fascinating man. Although it perhaps goes a little easy of the warts and all aspects of Obamas character, it does reveal his strong self-confidence and ego, while also outlining his extreme intellect and ability to build bridges among opposing factions, and to look at all sides of an issue, a quality much needed by a president in these times. The term bridge refers I am shocked to discover this isn’t a best seller, at least didn’t reach #1 and stay there, because it is a fascinating book about a fascinating man. Although it perhaps goes a little easy of the “warts and all” aspects of Obama’s character, it does reveal his strong self-confidence and ego, while also outlining his extreme intellect and ability to build bridges among opposing factions, and to look at all sides of an issue, a quality much needed by a president in these times. The term “bridge” refers to his destiny as the one to cross the symbolic bridge from the racial stress of the ‘60s to a post-racial era, represented literally by his passage over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in Selma, Alabama, scene of Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965. Recent events and opposition to President Obama indicate we perhaps haven't reached a post-racial era yet, but his election was a monumental step in that direction. This book was very long, very detailed, but NEVER boring! As an unashamed Obama supporter, I loved it!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Richard Etzel

    I think if you are interested in the political process; if you long to understand our current president; if you wish to understand the Obama policies; if you want to know how it was possible to win the presidency when most people had never heard of him, then you should read David Remnick's book about the man. David clearly lays out how Pres. Obama came to the notice of the American public: through strength of intellect, persistence, calmness under attack, determination to offer a new form of I think if you are interested in the political process; if you long to understand our current president; if you wish to understand the Obama policies; if you want to know how it was possible to win the presidency when most people had never heard of him, then you should read David Remnick's book about the man. David clearly lays out how Pres. Obama came to the notice of the American public: through strength of intellect, persistence, calmness under attack, determination to offer a new form of leadership for America. It's a long book covering the life of Barack Obama from his recent ancestors, his birth, early schooling, rearing and assimilation into American life. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and hope many will read it. I don't think this review does it justice!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Made it to page 122. Too slow, too dry, and at least in the first 122 pages too full of information I already knew or had read elsewhere. The new information that was presented I'm not that interested in. The details of Obama's mother's doctoral dissertation? The record of the basketball team that Obama played on when he was in high school and his "odd, but effective, double-pump jump shot that he took in the lane off the dribble"? No thanks. The other reviewers here suggest that the book picks Made it to page 122. Too slow, too dry, and at least in the first 122 pages too full of information I already knew or had read elsewhere. The new information that was presented I'm not that interested in. The details of Obama's mother's doctoral dissertation? The record of the basketball team that Obama played on when he was in high school and his "odd, but effective, double-pump jump shot that he took in the lane off the dribble"? No thanks. The other reviewers here suggest that the book picks up when it describes Obama's early political career. I'll just have to take their word for it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Susan Hester

    This is an extraordinary biography of Barack Obama. The author uses the bridge as a metaphor from slavery and the civil rights movement to the election of the first African American President. What is so incredible is the amount of research he has woven into what we know or think we know. It is truly a history lesson. Having not read Obama's own books, I can't make a comparison but what I do know is that I learned much and admire the man even more.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mary Gail O'Dea

    Excellent and engaging look at Obama. It is not at all dry because it includes short bios on many major figures in his life. It also looks in depth at the Hawaiian and Indonesian cultures in which he was formed and at the many facets of Chicago socio-political realities and personalities in which he grew as a politician. Really explains the bases of his global views, his pragmatism, and his determined search for middle ground.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Maughn Gregory

    Beautifully-written, in-depth biography of Obama from his childhood through his swearing in as President. I was deeply impressed by the narrative of how Obama carefully, intentionally constructed his personhood - his sense of who he is and what his life would be about - drawing on his multi-ethnic background, his multi-national up-bringing, and years of study and inquiry into African-American history and the civil rights movement.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Fascinating. Gives you a real sense of Obama's background, personality, and style of leadership. Lots of 'insider insight' from those very close to him - friends, family, campaign people. Meticulously researched and written by the editor of the New Yorker - no wonder he got all those interviews.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Vince Carter

    Superb, insightful writing, much more interesting glimpses inside the presidential campaign than "Game Change" and more importantly an informative look at Barack's heritage and experiences in life, in school, and in work before politics.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Very well researched with new insights into Obama's childhood, his mother, his political life in Chicago Extremely readable

  30. 5 out of 5

    Javier Boncompte G.

    Absolutly brilliant. A very complete story not only of Barack Obama but also about race in USA. Great biography!

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