Traverse City Record-Eagle

Arts & Entertainment

December 20, 2013

President Obama's brother writes about his abuse as a child

HONG KONG (AP) — President Barack Obama’s half brother is publishing an autobiography that details the domestic abuse that served as the theme for his earlier semiautobiographical novel, 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, “I hope that my brother and I can really hug each other after he’s president and we can be a family again,” said Ndesandjo, who resembles Obama. 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 for 12 years in the southern Chinese boomtown of Shenzhen, next door to Hong Kong. He moved there to teach English after losing his job when the U.S. economy cratered following the 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.

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