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The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama

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Hendon’s reflection, and related remarks about how and why Obama aggravated him, are part of Remnick’s thorough biography of the 44th president’s unprecedented political odyssey. In The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama, Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker magazine, proves an exhaustive reporter and skilled writer as he recounts Obama’s journey.

The title comes from John Lewis, US congressman and longtime civil rights activist, who told Remnick, “Barack Obama is what comes at the end of that bridge in Selma.”

It is to Remnick’s credit that he manages to mine this young president’s familiar story – the absent Kenyan father, the itinerant and idealistic young white mother, a childhood of wandering from Hawaii to Indonesia and back again – and find new insights. He achieves this by dogged persistence, chatting with a wide range of friends, bosses, teachers, rivals, campaign staffers, and family members to explore what led a self-described skinny biracial kid with a funny name to the most powerful political office in the world.

At the same time, Remnick’s firm grasp of race and its infinite volatilities is nuanced and balanced. Here again, he benefits from rich recollections resulting from his fresh interviews with, among others, former Black Panther Bobby Rush; the radical activist Bill Ayers; and Martin Luther King Jr.’s surviving aides: Congressman Lewis, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who delivered the final benediction at Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

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