NEW YORK – Yet another Obama relative is about to surface in the United States to cause the president grief over the credibility of key aspects of the autobiography that helped propel him to the White House, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.”
Mark Obama Ndesandjo, Barack Obama’s Kenyan half-brother, plans to release Sept. 16 his own autobiography, “An Obama’s Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery across Three Cultures,” published by Globe Pequot Press.
WND reported in December Ndesandjo initially planned to self-publish the book.
In an advance copy of the 374-page memoir obtained by WND, Ndesandjo describes his relationship with his half-brother as distant and strained.
In an appendix, Ndesandjo disputes as inaccurate and a fabrication much of what Obama presented as his African roots in “Dreams from My Father,” which was used to introduce his complex family story to the nation.
Ndesandjo’s mother was Ruth Baker, a Jewish Bostonian that Barack Obama Sr. met and married while pursuing graduate studies at Harvard. Barack Obama is the son of the Kenyan and his second wife, Stanley Ann Dunham, a white student he met while studying at the University of Hawaii.
Baker was a 1958 graduate of Simmons College in Boston with a degree in business.
Commonly known as Ruth Nidesand in most Obama biographical accounts, she followed Barack Obama Sr. back to Africa and married him in Kenya in a civil ceremony Dec. 24, 1964.
After Baker divorced Barack Obama Sr., she and her two sons by Barack Obama Sr. took on the surname of their stepfather, Ndesandjo.
Ndesandjo’s new book enters the controversy over “Dreams,” which WND columnist Jack Cashill has argued not only contains fictional accounts but was written largely by former Weather Underground domestic terrorist and Marxist activist Bill Ayers.
Ndesandjo currently lives in Shenzhen, China, where he gives piano lessons to orphans.
He plans to be in the U.S. for two weeks in mid-September. He will launch “An Obama’s Journey” with a book signing Sept. 13 at a Barnes & Noble store in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood.
‘So close, yet so far’
Ndesandjo opens the book with a prelude that describes his meeting with his half-brother at the St. Regis hotel in Beijing in 2009.
“Hearing a sound behind me, I turned to see someone standing in the doorway, cast into shadow by the bright light from the corridor outside,” he wrote of first seeing Barack in China. “I recognized the outline of those big, mouse-like ears that always seem to stick out. He stepped into the light and I saw his calm, serious face.”
Impulsively, Ndesandjo hugged Barack.
“Suddenly, he hugged me back,” he continued the narrative.
“I detected a faint smell of cigarette smoke and knew that, in spite of his and Michelle’s best efforts, today he had been playing truant.”
At that meeting, Ndesandjo reflected back on a piece of Chinese calligraphy he had given Barack at a previous meeting, in Austin during the 2008 presidential campaign. It read: “So close, yet so far. So far, yet so near.”
Ndesandjo reflected that Obama was close to him in the elaborately decorated hotel meeting room in China, yet so far away emotionally.
“Yet could I honestly have expected that some old photographs, or even the novel I had written, would get my brother to open up to me for the first time?” he wrote.
“How could the beliefs he had clung to for decades, the entrenched admiration of an adult for his father, be in any way altered by the views of a brother he hardly knew?”
‘To me my father had always been dead’
Ndesandjo writes graphically of his father’s proclivity for domestic violence.
“We Obamas have big hands,” he wrote.
“They can be used to create or to debase. My hands enable me to comfortably reach across twelve keys and play piano well. My father would use his big hands to knock my mother down when he came home from a night of drinking. I would move protectively toward her and clutch her legs, crying. I know now why I mostly remember her legs, not her torso, or even her face.”
He writes of being woken up as a child in the middle of a Kenyan night:
“When I was abruptly woken up, I would see light streaming in around the sides of the door. There would be thumps and yells, often followed by the sound of my mother screaming in pain or anger. Once I heard a loud crash and rushed to the door of the living room. By the orange light I saw my mother on the floor and my father standing over her, his hands clenched.”
The memories of domestic violence haunt Ndesandjo even now.
“Now as an adult, when I try to remember more, it becomes painful for me and I close my mind. I can only imagine how it must have felt for a child, any child, to have been unable to protect the ones he loved the most. Every blow my father gave my mother I felt, and each time it seemed to shatter the safe world I was trying to construct for myself, through refuge in study or play.”
Ndesandjo writes compellingly of his father’s downward spiral working as a bureaucrat in the Kenyan government.
“By the end of his third marriage, Barack Obama Sr.’s once-bright spark had decayed into smoldering ashes,” he said.
“Under normal circumstances, my father’s brilliance would have propelled him to a magnificent, perhaps glorious, career. However, the nepotism and tribalism that were rife in the young republic of Kenya combined to raise obstacles in his path; his tactlessness and flamboyant behavior, plus the scars left behind by his own traumatic upbringing did the rest. The government jobs he was offered became more and more inconsequential.”
In one particularly insightful passage, Ndesandjo copes with the impact his white, Boston-bred mother and African father had on shaping his own psyche.
“His [Barack Obama Sr.’s] self-hatred and tendency toward self-sabotage was passed down and became part of my identity,” he confesses.
“My mother’s lily-white skin and my father’s ebony-black visage come to symbolize an eternal incompatibility in my mind’s eye. For a long time I hated to have anything to do with what my father represented, whether it was him personally, or even the positive aspects of African culture. In violent reaction to him, I turned passionately toward Western culture and music, which brought me a measure of solace.”
Barack ’embraced his African side’
In 1988, after graduating from Brown University, Ndesandjo met Barack for the first time in an encounter in Kenya Ndesandjo describes as awkward at best.
Ndesandjo says he had not even known his older brother’s name until that moment. His mother annonced that Barack Obama from the United States was sitting on the living room couch, waiting to meet him.
“Who was this person?” Ndesandjo wrote, remembering his reaction to meeting the future president.
“What should I call him: Brother or Barack? Why did he want to see me? What could I possibly do for him? What did he want? There was a cold, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. For some reason I felt like a fraud, imperfect, even impure.”
Ndesandjo asked his mother to tell Barack that he was not home, then, relenting, he sat down with Barack as their first meeting turned into looking over old family photo albums.
“Overall, it was a very awkward, cold meeting,” Ndesandjo recalled.
Referring to their father, he said it was as “though the skeleton that no one ever talked about had strayed into the middle of a family party.”
The next day, when they met a second time, Ndesandjo took a close look at his half-brother.
“Barack stood in front of the car, I believe a Volkswagen,” he wrote. “In the sunlight I could see him better than I had the last time. He was taller and thinner than me, with a huge mass of unkempt hair framing an angular face. His nose was large and broad, his eyes piercing and direct. His clothes again were very plain: a simple cotton shirt and green or pale blue trousers.”
Ndesandjo described their lunch together during that second day as filled with tension, as Barack struggled to embrace the African heritage of a father Ndesandjo had rejected. Ndesandjo had refused even to use the Obama name, unable to forget, as a child, experiencing the alcoholism and brutality of their father.
Today, U.S.-educated Ndesandjo is an accomplished brush calligrapher and pianist who has issued three CDs of his music.
In 2009, he published his first book, “Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East.”
He has created the Mark Obama Foundation Ltd. with the goal of fostering cultural exchanges between Asia, Africa and the U.S., with an emphasis on helping young people appreciate art.