Obama guide grows beyond maps


POSTED: Monday, February 16, 2009

Ron Jacobs first heard of Barack Obama in 1999 when he visited his daughter at Chicago's Northwestern University and heard about a “;local boy”; who was doing well in politics. His interest grew as he watched Obama announce his candidacy for president on CNN in 2007, when he spoke to Obama's Punahou classmate Bart DaSilva and as he attended his first political caucus in 2008 and saw more than 900 people waiting in the evening drizzle to support Obama.

“;It's one thing to read about things, but when I saw the people standing in the rain—and I've seen people waiting for a lot of things in my life—I could just feel this surge coming on.”;

Jacobs' first idea was to publish a map of “;Obamaland”; that would be like one of those Hollywood “;Homes of the Stars”; maps that show where celebrities live (or lived). Then he started thinking about the importance of showing the sites as they had been when Obama lived in the islands.

Then his interest in history, culture and Hawaii kicked in. Add some different ideas about packaging and presentation, and the map grew into an illustrated book—maps included.

Jacobs describes his new book, “;Obamaland,”; as a reader-friendly popular history.

“;I started to try to connect with Obama more on a personal basis instead of as a historian. Instead of (only) going to the Internet, it forced me to actually go back to the library. To get the clipping of his birth announcement, I had to wade through all the microfilm. Going through the paper on the day he was born is just amazing!”;

He adds that although the project involved a lot of old-fashioned digging for information, “;everything just came together,”; as contacts with longtime friends led to other bits and pieces. Jacobs had known Dietrich Varez for almost 50 years but was surprised to learn that Varez hung out with Obama's father at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, and so it went.

“;(Putting it together) was more like directing a movie than doing a linear book,”; he said. “;And doing it, I've never thought of anything (besides) hoping that Barack Obama likes the book, and secondarily that his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, likes the book.”;


Writer John Berger contributed a piece to “;Obamaland”; on the entertainment scene in the '70s.