cover image Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama

David J. Garrow. Morrow, $45 (1,472p) ISBN 978-0-06-264183-0

In this epic-length biography, Garrow (Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) recounts Barack Obama’s intensely political life story up to his 2008 election to the presidency, and does so without apparent political bias. Every fact, however small, is documented in the footnotes, which run to hundreds of pages. The result is a convincing and exceptionally detailed portrait of one man’s self-invention. Garrow opens with a powerfully affecting episode: the March 1980 closure of a Wisconsin Steel plant on Chicago’s South Side, where Obama later spent formative years as a community organizer. Going back to his story’s beginnings, Garrow reports extensively about Obama’s father, a Kenyan-born Harvard graduate student who’s described as brilliant but also alcoholic and abusive toward women, and Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia. The book then explores Obama’s early romantic attachments, marriage to Michelle Robinson, involvement in polarizing and personally relevant issues of race, and political career, from state senator in Illinois to U.S. senator in Washington, where he’s immediately identified as a likely Presidential candidate. Garrow also takes care to clarify instances when Obama’s personal recollections or published memoirs differed from historical records or his associates’ memories. Casual readers may well find the level of detail here overpowering, but political history buffs will be fascinated. (May)