17 November 2012

Review: The Obamas

The Obamas
The Obamas by Jodi Kantor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not someone who necessarily admires or likes the first family politically, so picking this book up came more from the interesting media feedback that came about upon its release than anything else. Especially after being disappointed in the election results, a little something to read about four more years of the Obamas can't be a bad choice. Interestingly, this book ended up providing an entirely different perception of both Barack and Michelle than I anticipated it would, and the book actually ended up being a valuable use of my time.

The key point the media appeared to prey on was this idea that Michelle Obama came across as more of the unfortunately stereotypical angry black woman. I'll be honest - not only does Michelle Obama not come across that way in the book, but she actually comes across as incredibly well-meaning and sympathetic. Her concerns are portrayed as incredibly relevant and well-thought out, she is brought across as the anchor of that family who shows deep care for her husband and children. While the general media perception of her seems to be a more driven, stern character, those lines are softened considerably in the detailed look at her life in the spotlight.

That contrast becomes even more apparent when placed against her husband. While Barack Obama certainly had some missteps during the first term, and perhaps misunderstood and underestimated the challenge the population and Congress would give him, incompetence was not the word I would have generally used to describe him in most areas. Unfortunately for the president, this book shows him to be wildly out of touch with the country he governs, with the expectations of the office he holds, and shows a rather disengaged, disappointed man who is holding an office much larger than he can perhaps handle. Reading this post-election makes it that much more stunning, and perhaps a little disconcerting.

This isn't a partisan book by any means - if anything, the classic New York Times liberal lean comes through from time to time in the descriptions of certain events that occur during the times observed. The book, however, is also a very solid look at two people we really know surprisingly little about given their status in the country. I wish more people had read it before the election, and I think more people should read it now after the fact.

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