New book on Obama fills niche in local boy’s story
If Hawaii's Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States, there will be no end of documentaries and books written.
Any president will be covered in biographies, but if it is a 47-year-old black man from Hawaii, who sprang almost from nowhere to center stage, that is monumental history.
While the national gap can be filled by scribes from Washington and Chicago, the Hawaii puka needs its own touch.
So it follows that the phenomenon has started already with the new work of two local journalists, Jerry Burris and Stu Glauberman.
Their book, "The Dream Begins," to be released by Watermark Publishing in September, is a strong first effort at chronicling Obama's time in Hawaii from his early years as a fifth-grader at Punahou School through the time of his standing ovation of support in February at the Hawaii Democratic Party caucus.
"Entranced, mesmerized, stirred by a presidential candidate as they had not been in two generations, people were willing to play by any rules that night just so they could say, on this night, 'I voted for Barack Obama, who was born and bred in Hawaii,'" the pair wrote.
The 144-page softcover book starts with Obama returning from Indonesia with his mother, Ann Dunham, to greet his grandparents, who would eventually play a large role in raising him.
The book suffers from the lack of any interviews with either Obama or other family members, but this is not so much the fault of the authors as a reflection of the tight-fisted control of the national campaign, run out of Chicago. The reins are grasped so tightly that local campaign officials can say little about Obama without getting the Chicago blessing. For instance, the local campaign this week could not even answer the question of why Obama did not have a lei at the airport -- the "answer" had to come from a national spokeswoman, who danced around the question by saying the Obamas were in a hurry, anxious to get to the Keehi Lagoon event and meet their supporters and well-wishers.
Burris and Glauberman, however, added some of the fine details about Obama's upbringing and Burris, a veteran political observer, has a nice touch with Hawaii's unique political standing among the 50 states.
Also noted in the book are a series of interviews with Obama's father done by the late Honolulu journalist, John Griffin, when he wrote for the Star-Bulletin in 1959 and 1962.
Speaking of Obama Senior, Griffin wrote about Obama's perceptions of race relations in Hawaii and that he thought it "rather strange ... even rather amusing, to see Caucasians discriminated against here."
It is a good first Hawaii book that will be one of many, if Obama wins.