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Rising Star
Cover of Rising Star
Rising Star
The Making of Barack Obama
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New York Times Bestseller

Rising Star is the definitive account of Barack Obama's formative years that made him the man who became the forty-fourth president of the United Statesfrom the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross

Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America's first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now.

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama captivatingly describes Barack Obama's tumultuous upbringing as a young black man attending an almost-all-white, elite private school in Honolulu while being raised almost exclusively by his white grandparents. After recounting Obama's college years in California and New York, Garrow charts Obama's time as a Chicago community organizer, working in some of the city's roughest neighborhoods; his years at the top of his Harvard Law School class; and his return to Chicago, where Obama honed his skills as a hard-knuckled politician, first in the state legislature and then as a candidate for the United States Senate.

Detailing a scintillating, behind-the-scenes account of Obama's 2004 speech, a moment that labeled him the Democratic Party's "rising star," Garrow also chronicles Obama's four years in the Senate, weighing his stands on various issues against positions he had taken years earlier, and recounts his thrilling run for the White House in 2008.

In Rising Star, David J. Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world. Most important, Rising Star is an extraordinary work of biography—tremendous in its research and storytelling, and brilliant in its analysis of the all-too-human struggles of one of the most fascinating politicians of our time.

New York Times Bestseller

Rising Star is the definitive account of Barack Obama's formative years that made him the man who became the forty-fourth president of the United Statesfrom the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Bearing the Cross

Barack Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention instantly catapulted him into the national spotlight and led to his election four years later as America's first African-American president. In this penetrating biography, David J. Garrow delivers an epic work about the life of Barack Obama, creating a rich tapestry of a life little understood, until now.

Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama captivatingly describes Barack Obama's tumultuous upbringing as a young black man attending an almost-all-white, elite private school in Honolulu while being raised almost exclusively by his white grandparents. After recounting Obama's college years in California and New York, Garrow charts Obama's time as a Chicago community organizer, working in some of the city's roughest neighborhoods; his years at the top of his Harvard Law School class; and his return to Chicago, where Obama honed his skills as a hard-knuckled politician, first in the state legislature and then as a candidate for the United States Senate.

Detailing a scintillating, behind-the-scenes account of Obama's 2004 speech, a moment that labeled him the Democratic Party's "rising star," Garrow also chronicles Obama's four years in the Senate, weighing his stands on various issues against positions he had taken years earlier, and recounts his thrilling run for the White House in 2008.

In Rising Star, David J. Garrow has created a vivid portrait that reveals not only the people and forces that shaped the future president but also the ways in which he used those influences to serve his larger aspirations. This is a gripping read about a young man born into uncommon family circumstances, whose faith in his own talents came face-to-face with fantastic ambitions and a desire to do good in the world. Most important, Rising Star is an extraordinary work of biography—tremendous in its research and storytelling, and brilliant in its analysis of the all-too-human struggles of one of the most fascinating politicians of our time.

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About the Author-
  • David J. Garrow is Professor of Law & History and Distinguished Faculty Scholar at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. He is the author of four books, including Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. He is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, New York Times, and The American Prospect. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from March 27, 2017
    In this epic-length biography, Garrow (Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) recounts Barack Obama’s intensely political life story up to his 2008 election to the presidency, and does so without apparent political bias. Every fact, however small, is documented in the footnotes, which run to hundreds of pages. The result is a convincing and exceptionally detailed portrait of one man’s self-invention. Garrow opens with a powerfully affecting episode: the March 1980 closure of a Wisconsin Steel plant on Chicago’s South Side, where Obama later spent formative years as a community organizer. Going back to his story’s beginnings, Garrow reports extensively about Obama’s father, a Kenyan-born Harvard graduate student who’s described as brilliant but also alcoholic and abusive toward women, and Obama’s childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia. The book then explores Obama’s early romantic attachments, marriage to Michelle Robinson, involvement in polarizing and personally relevant issues of race, and political career, from state senator in Illinois to U.S. senator in Washington, where he’s immediately identified as a likely Presidential candidate. Garrow also takes care to clarify instances when Obama’s personal recollections or published memoirs differed from historical records or his associates’ memories. Casual readers may well find the level of detail here overpowering, but political history buffs will be fascinated.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2017
    An exhaustive epic of Barack Obama's trajectory to the presidency.Yes, Obama was born in Hawaii, in the United States, just as his birth certificate says. Yes, he smoked marijuana. Yes, he has been a person of overarching ambition with a coolness that often shades into iciness, an island of unnerving calm in the stormy sea of electoral politics. As he has demonstrated in previous books, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garrow (Law and History/Univ. of Pittsburgh School of Law; Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade, 1994, etc.) is a demon for research. The present volume, which weighs in at more than 1,400 pages (including nearly 275 pages of notes), is based on more than 1,000 interviews and consultations, it seems, with every known document to deal with the matter of the 44th president. Sometimes the book feels like too much of a good thing. While it is useful to know that Michelle Obama has a strong personality, it's not necessary to have repeated demonstrations of that strength--though it did afford columnists the wherewithal to accuse her of emasculating her husband, who in turn has seemed relatively emotionless. It is not entirely clear how Garrow feels about his subject except that his own overarching thesis would seem to rest on the idea that Obama--Garrow calls him "Barack," familiarly, throughout--was an efficient creator of himself, having gone from sometimes-frivolous youth to preternaturally serious adult with a clear vision of his path to success. Yet, as the author writes in closing, "while the crucible of self-creation had produced an ironclad will, the vessel was hollow at its core." Leaving aside the psychobiographical speculations, however, the core of this book is eminently solid, a thorough turning over of just about every stone, from the poor behavior of Obama's father in the U.S. to the sound and fury of Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers. Too long by half but consistently readable--an impressive work that will provide grist for the former president's detractors and admirers alike.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2016
    Garrow, who conducted extensive documentary research and more than 1,000 interviews, won the Pulitzer Prize for Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, considered a classic. So he should give us a sense of President Obama's path to the White House and his legacy. With a 250,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • New York Times Book Review "Impressive. ... [A] deeply reported work of biography."
  • Christian Science Monitor "Rigorous. ... Thorough. ... Meticulously researched. ... Delivers insight and clarity on Obama's enigmatic personality."
  • Atlanta Black Star "Extremely well-done. ... Garrow slices the fat of fiction away from fact. ... [A book] equally as valuable for what it is saying about the present and the future as well as the past."
  • Washington Post "Revealing. ... Probing. ... [Garrow] tells us how Obama lived, and explores the calculations he made in the decades leading up to his winning the presidency."
  • David Greenberg, Politico "Phenomenal... Essential. ... Persuasive. ... Authoritative. ... A stunning and indispensable work of history. ... A masterwork of historical and journalistic research... [and] a terrific read."
  • Bloomberg (a Must-Read of 2017) "One of the most impressive presidential biographies... [and] a look at the social construction of race."
  • Paul Street, <I>New York Journal of Books</I> "A tour de force. ... An epic triumph of personal and political biography.
  • Library Journal (starred review) "The authoritative biography of Barack Obama's prepresidential years. ... Illuminating. ... Impressively researched. ... Readers will be richly rewarded."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred review) "A convincing and exceptionally detailed portrait. ... Political history buffs will be fascinated."
  • Literary Review (London) "Important. ... Engages, absorbs and mesmerises."
  • Kirkus Reviews "Garrow is a demon for research. ... Eminently solid. ... Consistently readable — an impressive work."
  • Washington Independent Review of Books "Gripping. ... [A] compelling read [that] should appeal to political junkies and insiders. ... Foundational."
  • Globe and Mail (Toronto) "Learned. ... May endure in the American presidential canon."
  • Paul Lisnek, WGN Chicago "Definitive. ... Fascinating. ... So interesting, you'll be hard-pressed to put it down."
  • Roland Martin, NEWS ONE NOW "You definitely want to pick it up. ... Very thorough, very well-researched."
  • The Federalist "Comprehensive. ... Contains many insights to Obama's life and character. ... Will be the defining work on Obama's early life for years to come."
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette "Immensely informative. ... Reveals Mr. Obama in all his complexity."
  • Daily Nebraskan "Groundbreaking. ... A candid examination of the former president's life before the White House."
  • New York Law Journal "Breathtaking. ... With depth and meticulousness, David Garrow's new book pulls back the curtain on Obama's family, upbringing, college years, personal reinventions, mentors, romances, career choices, law school accomplishments, marriage and rise in Illinois politics."
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