Barack Obama's Ivy-League educated half-brother is publishing his autobiography next month, painting a dramatically different picture of their few meetings from the one the president related in his best-selling 'Dreams from My Father' memoir.
Mark Obama Ndesandjo includes an appendix in his book, cataloguing what he says are factual errors in 'Dreams' – including words falsely attributed to his mother, a Jewish woman named Ruth.
'A lot of the stuff that Barack wrote is wrong in that book, and I can understand that,' he told the Associated Press last year when he planned to self-publish his book.
'To me,' Ndesandjo said then, 'for him the book was a tool for fashioning an identity and he was using composites. I wanted the record to be straight. I wanted to tell my own story, not let people tell it for me.'
His book, 'An Obama's Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery across Three Cultures,' is due in stores September 16 and published by Globe Pequot Press.
Describing a two-day stretch in 1988 when the two half-brothers first met and shared a next-day lunch, Ndesandjo, who bears only a vague family resemblance to the president, writes that 'overall, it was a very awkward, cold meeting.'
Barack Sr., he explains, was someone he tried not to think of since he had divorced Ruth years earlier and descended further into alcoholism and a downward career spiral.
But with Barack Jr. suddenly in his living room, brought for a visit by the future president's aunt, avoiding thoughts about their common father became uncomfortably impossible. It was, he writes, as 'though the skeleton that no one ever talked about had strayed into the middle of a family party.'
Ndesandjo, according to a writer at WND.com who obtained an advance copy of the book, '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.'
The author 'had refused even to use the Obama name, unable to forget, as a child, experiencing the alcoholism and brutality of their father.'
The elder Barack was a blithely self-involved alcoholic, once killing a man in a DUI auto accident and dying at age 46 while driving drunk. His viciousness is largely absent from the president's 'Dreams' – President Obama met Barack Sr. just once after his infancy, at age 10 – and is relegated to Obama quoting his half-brother criticizing Barack Sr.
'You think that somehow I’m cut off from my roots, that sort of thing,' Ndesandjo tells the future president in 'Dreams.'
'Well, you're right. At a certain point, I made a decision not to think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife or children. That was enough.'
In 'Dreams,' Obama casts himself as the all-seeing observer trying to connect himself back to his Kenyan roots. But Ndesandjo now recalls details that never made it into the president's 1995 book.
'My impression at the first meeting,' he writes, 'was that Barack thought that I was too white, and I thought that he was too black.'
'He was an American search for his African roots. ... I'm an American but I was living in Kenya, searching for my white roots.'
'I remember that when I spoke with him about the heroes of Western culture, he rolled his eyes impatiently,' he has told Maariv, an Israeli newspaper.
'My feeling was that, here is an American who in many ways is trying to be a local Kenyan youth. This is something I tried to flee my entire life.'
Ndesandjo says his effort to escape his African cultural roots was furthered in part by a desire to escape the legacy of his violent father. 'His self-hatred and tendency toward self-sabotage was passed down and became part of my identity,' he acknowledges in his new book.
'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,' he concludes, 'I turned passionately toward Western culture and music, which brought me a measure of solace.'
After earning degrees in physics from Brown and Stanford Universities, Ndesandjo honed his artistic talents in China where he lives with his wife. He is an accomplished pianist and recording artist who often gives lessons to orphans in the Chinese boom town of Shenzhen.
More criticisms of Barack Sr. surfaced in 2009 when the new president visited China during his first year in the White House.
That's when Ndesandjo published his first book, an autobiographical novel titled 'Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Tale of Love In The East.' It paints Barack Obama Sr. as an abusive drunk who repeatedly beat him and his mother in episode after rage-filled episode.
'There were some thumps as of someone falling,' reads one passage that Ndesandjo wrote in the third-person. 'His father's angry voice raised itself. ... He didn't remember what they were fighting about, but his stomach felt sick and empty.' 'His mother was being attacked and he couldn't protect her. "You bastard!" he remembered her screaming out. And that was just one night. There were many more.'
One of those nights, Ndesandjo writes in 'An Obama's Journey,' resulted in his blitzed father holding a knife to his mother's throat after she obtained a restraining order against him.
'We Obamas have big hands. They can be used to create or to debase,' reads one portion. '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,' writes Ndesandjo. 'I know now why I mostly remember her legs, not her torso, or even her face.'
His parents met when Obama Sr. was a graduate student at Harvard University. They moved to Kenya in 1964, where he and his brother David were born. David later died in a motorcycle accident.
Obama Sr. had earlier divorced President Obama's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, following Obama's 1961 birth.
Ndesandjo's mother later divorced the elder Barack Obama and married another man, whose surname both mother and son also took.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).