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President Obama's half-brother reveals abusive father

11 July 2016, 08:07

Beijing - He said he had no problem with "taking advantage of" his connection to the president of the United States when it comes to addressing, what he calls, neglected social problems, such as domestic violence.

"People would not pay attention to these problems if I was not in the Obama family, so I'm happy to use that influence," said Mark Obama Ndesandjo, U.S. President Barack Obama's half-brother, on Saturday during the launch for the Chinese edition of his latest book in Beijing.

The English memoir "An Obama's Journey: My Odyssey of Self-Discovery across Three Cultures" was ranked second by Kam Williams' Top Ten Black Books of 2014 List. The Chinese edition was recently published by the People's Literature Publishing House, providing a window into the Obama family, the president, and the Chinese dream of a U.S. citizen born in Kenya and living in China.

It is Ndesandjo's second book after his semi-autobiographical novel "Nairobi to Shenzhen: A Novel of Love in the East," which was published in English and Chinese in 2009.

Both books reveal domestic violence at the hands of Barack Obama Sr., the father of the U.S. president and Ndesandjo. Ruth Baker, Ndesandjo's Jewish-American mother and the third wife of Obama Sr., later divorced Obama Sr. and married a man with the surname of Ndesandjo.

"I had to tell the story because it's important to talk about domestic violence. Up to 30 percent of families worldwide suffer from violence," said Ndesandjo. "I want to show the world even a president's family has such a problem, but we were able to solve it."

"It took great courage for Mark to lay bare his past," said Wang Ruiqin, the Chinese editor. "I see a frank person in this beautifully written book."

In the eyes of Ndesandjo, the two brothers were two very different sons. "My brother tried to realize our father's dream, while I tried to correct his mistakes," he said.

"The book is not just about bad things. I also talk about good things in our family and my own mistakes," said Ndesandjo.

Featuring rare family photos, the author recounts how his grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, left a remote Kenyan village for the frontline of the two world wars, how his father Barack Obama Sr. became one of the first Kenyans to study in the United States, and how his brother Barack Obama Jr. was elected as the first African-American president of the United States.

"Ndesandjo's depiction of the three generations' striving to succeed is compelling and inspiring," said Wang. "That's why we decided to change the subtitle of the Chinese edition to 'endeavor of a person and a family'."

Ndesandjo also revealed his complex relationship with his brother, including their meeting in Beijing when the U.S president visited China in 2009.


Ndesandjo has lived in Shenzhen in south China for 14 years and he proudly calls himself a global citizen.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, Ndesandjo felt life in the United States had changed and started to look east. He sold his house and car, and moved to Shenzhen, a booming city bordering Hong Kong.

The accomplished pianist established the "Piano+1" program to send pianos and music teachers to schools in China's poverty-stricken areas.

"Music helps them become more confident" he said. Six pianos had been sent to six schools in southwest China's Sichuan Province last month.

Ndesandjo fell in love with Chinese culture. Having mastered the language, he wove Chinese poems, idioms and proverbs throughout his recent publication.

He has also tried his hand at Chinese calligraphy. During the election campaign in 2008, he gave his elder brother a carefully chosen piece of Chinese calligraphy: "Tian Ya Zhi Chi" (so close yet so far; so far yet so near). He also wrote a piece to readers attending Saturday's book launch, "Bai Ji Qian Xin" (try everything).

"Being free is a very American concept, but I feel much freer now I am in China," he said. "I have become more American in China," he said.

- Xinhua


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