History Buzz May 3, 2012: David Maraniss’ “Barack Obama: The Story” Puts President’s Early Romantic Life & Political Views on Display — Excerpts

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

History Buzz

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in late 2011.

HISTORY BUZZ: HISTORY NEWS RECAP

HISTORY BOOK NEWS: PRESIDENT OBAMA’S EARLY ROMANTIC LIFE & POLITICAL VIEWS ON DISPLAY IN DAVID MARINISS BOOK

Genevieve Cook with a young Barack Obama.Vanity Fair
YOUNG LOVERS: Genevieve Cook with a young Barack Obama.

David Maraniss: Barack Obama: The Story


From one of our preeminent journalists and modern historians comes the epic story of Barack Obama and the world that created him.
In Barack Obama: The Story, David Maraniss has written a deeply reported generational biography teeming with fresh insights and revealing information, a masterly narrative drawn from hundreds of interviews, including with President Obama in the Oval Office, and a trove of letters, journals, diaries, and other documents.
The book unfolds in the small towns of Kansas and the remote villages of western Kenya, following the personal struggles of Obama’s white and black ancestors through the swirl of the twentieth century. It is a roots story on a global scale, a saga of constant movement, frustration and accomplishment, strong women and weak men, hopes lost and deferred, people leaving and being left. Disparate family threads converge in the climactic chapters as Obama reaches adulthood and travels from Honolulu to Los Angeles to New York to Chicago, trying to make sense of his past, establish his own identity, and prepare for his political future.
Barack Obama: The Story chronicles as never before the forces that shaped the first black president of the United States and explains why he thinks and acts as he does. Much like the author’s classic study of Bill Clinton, First in His Class, this promises to become a seminal book that will redefine a president.

Sunday, January 22, 1984
What a startling person Barack is—so strange to voice intimations of my own perceptions—have them heard, responded to so on the sleeve. A sadness, in a way, that we are both so questioning that original bliss is dissipated—but feels really good not to be faltering behind some façade—to not feel that doubt must be silenced and transmuted into distance.

Thursday, January 26
How is he so old already, at the age of 22? I have to recognize (despite play of wry and mocking smile on lips) that I find his thereness very threatening…. Distance, distance, distance, and wariness.

Sunday, February 19
Despite Barack’s having talked of drawing a circle around the tender in him—protecting the ability to feel innocence and springborn—I think he also fights against showing it to others, to me. I really like him more and more—he may worry about posturing and void inside but he is a brimming and integrated character.
Today, for the first time, Barack sat on the edge of the bed—dressed—blue jeans and luscious ladies on his chest [a comfy T-shirt depicting buxom women], the end of the front section of the Sunday Times in his hand, looking out the window, and the quality of light reflected from his eyes, windows of the soul, heart, and mind, was so clear, so unmasked, his eyes narrower than he usually holds them looking out the window, usually too aware of me.

Saturday, February 25
The sexual warmth is definitely there—but the rest of it has sharp edges and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all. I have to admit that I am feeling anger at him for some reason, multi-stranded reasons. His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness—and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.

Becoming Obama: When Barack Obama met Genevieve Cook in 1983 at a Christmas party in New York’s East Village, it was the start of his most serious romance yet. But as the 22-year-old Columbia grad began to shape his future, he was also struggling with his identity: American or international? Black or white? Drawing on conversations with both Cook and the president, David Maraniss, in an adaptation from his new Obama biography, has the untold story of the couple’s time together…. – Vanity Fair, 6-12

Related: David Maraniss discusses his biography of President Barack Obama—and his reaction to Genevieve Cook’s diaries being used—in a VF.com Q&A.Vanity Fair, 6-12

David Maraniss’s ‘Barack Obama: The Story’ Excerpted in Vanity Fair: Juiciest Bits: Sleeping at the university library. Writing love letters to a white woman describing ‘bourgeois liberalism.’ Nope, this isn’t Lena Dunham you’re reading about; it’s President Obama, at least according to David Maraniss’s ‘Barack Obama: The Story.’ Ben Jacobs combs through the excerpt and finds the best parts…. – The Daily Beast, 5-2-12

  • Running for President? How Embarrassing!: Exactly how embarrassing is it to be President of the United States? That’s the question we tackled today on the Bottom Line. And of course it’s the recent Vanity Fair article by David Maraniss that raises the topic…. – ABC News, 5-3-12Author tracks down Obama’s former girlfriends: No one has heard from Barack Obama’s former girlfriends until now, when two of them — Genevieve Cook and Alex McNear, complete with love letters and a diary detailing their relationships — surface in a new Obama biography by David Maraniss … – Chicago Sun-Times, 5-2-12
  • New Obama book is cookin’: Author David Maraniss, whose much anticipated biography of President Obama titled Barack Obama: The Story, hits bookshelves next month — found two of the president’s old girlfriends…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 5-2-12
  • He had great sexual warmth: Obama’s secret Australian girlfriend tells all in new book: YOU’RE a smart-looking dude fresh out of college with the whole of New York to romance.
    You’ve just broken up with a chick from California – it was a long-distance thing and she was a serious literary type who made you write to her about T.S. Eliot.
    But then you meet a hot young primary school teacher in a kitchen at some party. You’re wearing jeans, a T-shirt and cool leather jacket. She has an accent and it turns out she’s the daughter of a diplomat. From Australia. A week later she spends the night with you. Score.
    She’s comfortable with you lounging around bare-chested in a blue and white sarong – hey, she grew up in Indonesia too – and doesn’t mind that you wear Brut, smoke and eat raisins.
    For some reason you break up and years later, while you’re making a name for yourself in politics, you decide to write an autobiography.
    Except, you don’t talk about the raisins, the sarong or the fact she’s an Aussie. You just refer to her as “woman in New York that I loved”. And then you start making stuff up.
    Which would be fine, if you didn’t go on to become the President of the United States. News.com.au, 5-2-12
  • NY flame dishes on Obama’s romantic ways when he was 22: Long before he was courting voters, a young Barack Obama was a 22-year-old college grad in New York who knew how to seduce young women while he struggled with his own racial identity.
    Excerpts of David Maraniss’ biography, “Barack Obama: The Story,” in Vanity Fair portray the future president as a smooth operator — disarming and engaging with the ladies yet guarded and detached.
    In a series of diary entries from one of his lovers here in the Big Apple, a never-before-seen side of the now-guarded president is revealed — with descriptions of his “sexual warmth” and his penchant for lounging at home in a sarong.
    Then-girlfriend Genevieve Cook made it abundantly clear in her diary entries, included with excerpts of the book posted on Vanity Fair’s Web site yesterday, that he spoke softly — and used his charm to win her over.
    “The sexual warmth is definitely there — but the rest of it has sharp edges, and I’m finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all . . .” Cook, then 25, wrote.
    But she also sees hints of the future Obama, known for his reserve and guardedness.
    “His warmth can be deceptive. Tho he speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness — and I begin to have an inkling of some things about him that could get to me.”… – NY Post, 5-2-12
  • The dangerous new Obama book: Months before Barack Obama knew Mitt Romney would be his political opponent in 2012, the president knew the identity of his foremost literary challenger: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David Maraniss, who had been reaching out to Obama’s old friends, classmates and lovers for the past several years.
    The product of his big dig, “Barack Obama: The Story,” seems to be a nuanced, even sympathetic portrayal culled from people who still admire Obama. Yet, make no mistake, this is a dangerous book for Obama, and White House staffers have been fretting about it in a low-grade way for a long, long time — in part because it could redefine the self-portrait Obama skillfully created for himself in 1995 with “Dreams from My Father.”
    The success of “Dreams” has given Obama nearly complete control of his own life narrative, an appealing tale that has been the foundation of his political success. But Maraniss’s biography threatens that narrative by questioning it: Was Obama’s journey entirely spiritual and intellectual? Or was it also grounded in the lower realms of ambition and calculation?…. – Politico, 5-3-12
  • Australian ex-girlfriend’s diaries show Obama in love: Washington: Secret diaries of an Australian woman who was one of the young Barack Obama’s girlfriends, show not only the warmth and trust of the future President in love, but also hint at his reserve and “coolness.” Accounts of the 1980s romance … – NDTV, 5-2-12
  • Just one old Obama girlfriend gets glory: So a new biography of Barack Obama reveals that in the president’s own memoir — “Dreams from My Father” — he smooshed together several old girlfriends into a … composite. Obama’s excuse to biographer David Maraniss, whose book is … – Boston Herald, 5-2-12
  • He had great sexual warmth: Obama’s secret Australian girlfriend tells all: Book reveals Obama’s New York love She was the daughter of an Aussie diplomat Questions surround veracity of President’s memory YOU’RE a smart-looking dude fresh out of college with the whole of New York to romance. You’ve just broken up with a chick…. – Herald Sun, 5-3-12
  • Dear diary: Obama’s ex sheds light on romance and the man: A portrait of a young Barack Obama in love emerged Wednesday with excerpts of an upcoming book appearing in Vanity Fair magazine that delve into the president’s 1980s love affair with an Australian-born woman three years his senior…. – Hamilton Spectator, 5-2-12
  • Ohbama! New book reveals President’s lovelife: Barack Obama was looking for love in New York City. The future President, who in 1983 was a recent graduate of Columbia University, chatted up an assistant teacher at a party that Christmas, according to a revealing new book…. – New York Daily News, 5-2-12
  • New book sheds light on Obama’s former girlfriends: A NEW book has shed light on some of President Barack Obama’s early romances during his college and post-college years. The revelations came out in a Vanity Fair magazine article featuring excerpts from Washington Post reporter David Maraniss’ new book…. – Herald Sun, 5-2-12
  • Obama’s ex-girlfriend: what her diaries reveal: As a recent college grad in New York, Barack Obama fell in love with a young white woman named Genevieve Cook. Passages from her diary appear in a new biography of the president…. – CS Monitor, 5-3-12
  • Ex-girlfriend tells of her romance with ‘guarded’ student Obama: When a woman a few years older told a 22-year-old Barack Obama, “I love you,” he replied, “Thank you”. In the journal she kept throughout their roughly one-year relationship, the girlfriend, from Australia and white, once noted: “The sexual warmth is … – The Independent UK, 5-3-12
  • The diary of Obama’s lover from Australia: Australia has finally got a piece of a US President. Barack Obama was just out of law school when he began a two-year affair with Genevieve Cook, daughter of an Australian diplomat. He was 22. She was 25. In 1983 she was teaching primary school…. – Stuff.co.nz, 5-3-12
  • Obama was sexually warm, but emotionally cool, early girlfriend says: Twenty-two years old, just graduated from Columbia University and about to enter his first meaningful romantic relationship, Barack Obama charmed a young Australian woman at a Christmas party in 1983. Sitting on an orange bean bag in the sixth-floor…. – Globe and Mail, 5-3-12
  • Obama’s Aussie ex-girlfriend wrote of love: Secret diaries of an Australian woman who was one of young Barack Obama’s girlfriends, show the warmth and trust of the future president in love, but also hint at his reserve and “coolness.” Accounts of the 1980s romance between Genevieve Cook…. – Ninemsn, 5-3-12

Barack Obama
Barack Obama while a student in New York. After his graduation he embarked on a series of love affairs. Picture: AP

 

Genevieve Cook
She had a voice like a wind chime: Genevieve Cook, the girl Barack Obama referred in his autobiography as “woman in New York that I loved”. Picture: Family photo / Washington Post

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