President Barack Obama’s half brother is publishing the follow up to his semiautobiographical novel with an autobiography, which featured an abusive parent patterned on their late father.
Mark Obama Ndesandjo also recounts his sporadic but intense encounters with his brother over the years in Cultures: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery. The self-published book, to be released in February, also tries to set the record straight on some points in the president’s bestselling 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father. In that book, Obama seeks to learn more about their father, a mostly absent figure, after learning of his death in a car crash in 1982 at age 46.
Ndesandjo’s book comes four years after his novel Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East. As in his first book, Ndesandjo wanted to raise awareness of domestic abuse by using his family’s story, although he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that the President’s relatives have not universally welcomed his airing of private matters in public. Ndesandjo spoke ahead of a news conference to launch the book in Guangzhou on Thursday.
When asked how he would describe his relationship with his brother, he said, “Right now it’s cold and I think part of the reason is because of my writing. My writing has alienated some people in my family.”
Even though he felt their relationship was distant, he said, “I hope that my brother and I can really hug each other after he’s President and we can be a family again.” Like the President, Ndesandjo also has a white American mother, Ruth Ndesandjo, a Jewish woman who was Barack Obama Sr.’s third wife.
Ndesandjo, 48, has lived the past 12 years in the southern Chinese town of Shenzhen, a neighbor of Hong Kong. He moved there to teach English after he lost his job in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and now works as a consultant. Ndesandjo, who is married to a Chinese woman, learned to speak Chinese and immersed himself in the study of Chinese culture, including poetry and brush calligraphy. Trained as a classical pianist, he gives lessons as a volunteer at an orphanage.
Some of the book’s profits will go to charities for children, including Ndesandjo’s own foundation, which uses art to help disadvantaged kids.
In his new book, Ndesandjo recalls alcohol-fueled beatings meted out by his father to his mother. He recounts one incident in which his father held a knife to his mother’s throat because she took out a restraining order against him.
His parents met when Obama Sr. was a graduate student at Harvard University and moved in 1964 to Kenya, where Mark and his brother David were born. David later died in a motorcycle accident.