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The Obamas by Jodi Kantor
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The Obamas (2012)

by Jodi Kantor

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Eh. As I recall the book caused a bit of a stir when it came out. The author looks at some of the inner workings of the Obama marriage and family, with a background to their childhoods and early marriage, to focusing mostly on his run and tenure as President up to August 2011.

It seemed interesting at first, but it got repetitive: both are driven people who need to have end goals in mind. The pressures and changes of the presidency comes at the cost of privacy and time with their daughters. Michelle Obama could be a perfectionist. Barack Obama could be emotionally distant. I understand the author had these points to make, and could have more skillfully made it clearer that these have remained with the Obamas (to a certain extent), but the author's writing is plodding and at times hard to get through.

The political mostly takes a backstage--we see the election, the battle over healthcare, the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and discussion of gun control as some events, but for the most part names like Nancy Pelosi and John McCain are mostly extras. We do see the inner relationships between various people: Valerie Jarrett, Robert Gibbs, Rahm Emanuel, etc.

Some of these weren't too surprising: Emanuel's famous temper and the friction between him, POTUS, other aides, etc. I was amused to see that Emanuel apparently tried to Jarrett appointed to the Senate and out of the White House. But I was left puzzled by Jarrett: close to the President and his family and perhaps untouchable because of that relationship. Many of the people who appear here in the book are elsewhere out of the White House as of this writing, but Jarrett is still there. One story of how she and Gibbs came to an awful screaming match (his side) and condescension (her side) was awkward to read. Kantor's text implies Jarrett was incorrect and Gibbs had handled the situation just fine (minimal public fuss and with no problem from the first lady). Other articles here and there since this book has been published seem to imply a similar sentiment, but I guess we'll have to wait until after the Obama administration for any tell-alls.

There were also some occasionally odd missteps. Kantor relates a Halloween party that had been set up and arranged by Desiree Rogers, the former White House Social Secretary. There were issues with the lens on how the story would be viewed, although it was deemed a success publicly. Kantor says that this was Rogers' end, although the disastrous White House dinner with the two reality show party crashers would not happen for another few months. Considering the publicity the party crashers had generated, I am a little skeptical of Kantor quoting anonymous aides saying Rogers had her fate sealed a few months earlier, when it might have been easier to send Rogers off during the holidays after the Halloween party rather than in the aftermath of the party crashers.

An interesting read, but I wonder how many of these "aides" are people with grudges for whatever reason, people with clearly incorrect information or other reasons. Which is not to say that there isn't some truth to some of what Kantor wrote, as becoming POTUS and FLOTUS isn't exactly a cakewalk and Barack and Michelle Obama are parents to two young women who are growing up in a place like the White House. But I do skeptically wonder about some of the sourcing here.

I bought this as a bargain book. I'm glad I didn't buy it full price, because I'm not sure it's worth it. If you have any interest in the Obamas, presidential history, etc., it's an interesting read. ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
I enjoyed the content of this book. It was nice to hear stories from the President's personal life without being weighted down in politics. Also - interesting to hear about Barack and MIchelle's vision for leading the country and in the end how their roles ended up reversing. The last chapter was very well written, unlike the rest of book. I struggled with the beginning of the book, because the writer jumped from thought to thought without smooth transition and it was sometimes hard to follow what or who she was discussing. One sentence that really stood out to me on page 40 "When he died in 1991 after mysteriously collapsing, Marion and her children had to make the decision to take him off life support." If someone is already dead, then why would you need to remove the life support? I would have given a higher rating if the sentences and grammar had been easier to follow, particularly in the beginning of the book. ( )
  LBJ0620 | May 22, 2014 |
Good insight into the private lives of the POTUS and his wife, seems a bit stretched and sometimes repetitive but it would be nice if more people were aware of them as people and of the dreams and hopes they have for the nation. ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
(151) ( )
  activelearning | Aug 15, 2012 |
I really enjoyed this book. Even though most of it wasn't new, it added depth and nuance to the news stories and portraits of the Obamas I had already read. They came across as human beings, warts and all, which is why I guess the White House was a bit strident against it. She's a much stronger figure than I had thought (another reason for White House displeasure, since the masses don't tend to like strong women, particularly in the White House), and the clarity of her insight is a real asset to Obama. ( )
1 vote bobbieharv | Mar 3, 2012 |
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Kantor takes readers deep inside the White House as the Obamas try to grapple with their new roles, change the country, raise children, maintain friendships, and figure out what it means to be the first black President and First Lady.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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