No one who didn't grow up in the unique atmosphere of Hawai`i -- particularly Hawai`i in the heady 1970s, when Barack Obama was attending the state's second-best preparatory school -- can ever entirely grasp what that place was like and how it shapes a person. I was there too for while (except for the school part), so I can attest that "The Dream Begins" is not another hagiographic biography of The One (though it has a few elements of that). It is also a pretty impressively done review of the unique cultural conditions in the Aloha State and how they, combined with Obama's own complex family background, helped create the man we inaugurate today.
As befits two longtime journalists, "The Dream Begins" reads sort of like an extended newspaper feature article. It's a fast read, but not oversimplified or cliched, and a balanced look at Hawai`i's racial tensions past and present. Glauberman and Burris cover a lot of ground, and even readers in or familiar with Hawai`i will appreciate the authors' ability to make connections and present history in an engaging way. If it is true, as the quotation from Michelle Obama on the cover argues, that "You can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawai`i," "The Dream Begins" is a good way to get the foundation you need.
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Andrew S. Rogers (Cascadian)
Mostly, I'm a moderately prolific Amazon.com reviewer who's giving Lunch a try as another venue for my reviews.
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Born and raised in the most multicultural state in the union, United States presidential candidate Barack Obama bears the indelible stamp of his native Hawaii. Here is a coming-of-age story set in Hawaii's storied "melting pot—a revealing look at what makes Obama tick.
Authored by veteran political writers Stu Glauberman and Jerry Burris, this 152-page book examines Obama's early years in Hawaii. The self-described "skinny kid with the funny name" flourished in the Islands, where local values foster tolerance, compromise and mutual respect—and where diversity defines people rather than divides them. The social mores of the Aloha State and the experience of growing up in an island culture have had a deep and lasting influence on the candidate. Obama himself has noted, "What's best in me, and what's best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaii."
Glauberman and Burris offer concise lessons in Hawaii history to help the reader understand its racial and social climate, and how such an environment could impact a young man like Obama. For, as his wife, Michelle Obama, has said, "You can't really understand Barack until you understand Hawaii." Interviews with Obama's Punahou School classmates and teachers, as well as others who knew the Senator in his youth, add a personal dimension to the narrative. Obama's paternal and maternal family history and his years in Indonesia are also thoroughly covered.