Obama on nudity, drag-racing and how to write: 20 details from Maraniss’ ‘Barack Obama: The Story’

In the forthcoming biography
“Barack Obama: The Story,” due in bookstores June 19, David
Maraniss tells the largely untold
story of Obama’s family, his life
growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia,
his journey through college in
California and New York, and his years as a community organizer on
the South Side of Chicago. Some of the details from the book
have already been released,
including sections about Obama’s pot-smoking school days in Hawaii and stories about his early girlfriends, but the book, obtained by Yahoo News, is full of stories
about Obama’s past (even if Obama
doesn’t show up in the book until
Page 165). Here are 20 details from Obama’s
life detailed in Maraniss’ book: 1. Maraniss suggests that Obama’s
father, Barack Obama Sr., may
have abused Obama’s mother. “There is no direct evidence that
Obama hit Ann. She never talked
about it to her son or family, and
in retrospect always tried to give
their brief relationship the rosiest
interpretations. Bus as we shall see, Obama physically abused his
next wife, another American with
similar characteristics. This does
not mean that he abused Ann, but
it leads to that possibility.” 2. When Obama was 6 years old, he
moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, to
live with his mother and
stepfather, Lolo Soetoro, in a
home full of exotic animals. “The backyard was a sight to
behold, Lolo’s personal Indonesian
zoo: Chickens, cockatoos, snakes,
turtles, two biawaks (reptiles that
resemble miniature crocodiles) in a
pond, and a small ape named Tata that he brought back from a
mapping assignment with the army
in Papua.” 3. Obama’s presidential ambitions
stretched back to the third grade,
when he wrote this paper for his
class. My name is Barry Soetoro. I am a
third-grade student at SD Asisi. My mom is my idol. My teacher is Ibu Fer. I have a lot
of friends. I live near the school. I usually walk
to the school with my mom, then
go home by mystelf. Someday I want to be president. I
love to visit all the places in
Indonesia. Done. The eeeeeeeeend. 4. As a teenager, Obama was in a
car accident while drag-racing in
Hawaii. Obama wasn’t behind the wheel of
the car, but while he and some
friends were racing, the car he
was riding in flipped and landed
upside down. The other car turned
around and found Obama, who had crawled out a back window,
laughing hysterically. “You can’t drive for shit!” he kept
telling the driver. 5. Obama doesn’t have hops. He loved playing basketball in high
school, but he was “one of few
players on the team” who couldn’t
jump high enough to dunk. 6. Obama, college style. Maraniss describes Obama’s look
while he was a student at
Occidental University: “First there was his little toe. It
stuck out from the end of his
slippers, or flip-flops as they were
called on the mainland. His little toe
was straight, rather than cramped
and curling inward, a sign that his feet enjoyed a liberated existence,
unbound by leather shoes. Then
there was the rest of his daily
uniform: OP (Ocean Pacific)
corduroy shorts or denim jeans, a
shell bracelet, polo shirts or tees (including one promoting the Hawaii
state senate candidacy of Neil
Abercrombie…).” 7. Obama’s got the moves like
Jagger. “Barry Obama played a lot of
Hendrix, Earth, Wind & Fire, and
Billie Holiday, but was known in the
Annex for his wicked impression of
Mick Jagger. He could do the walk,
the strut, the face, and act out the dramatic scene of the Rolling
Stones onstage at the Altamont
Speedway outside Livermore,
California, on December 6, 1969, …” 8. Obama thought the world would
be a better place without clothes,
especially when nice-looking ladies
were around. Allegedly stoned and drunk one
night at Occidental, Obama and a
friend stopped to talk to an
attractive girl and “Barry launched
into a riff on nudity, offering his
theory that the human race would be better off if people did not
wear clothes. This declaration was
made with the urgency of
someone ready to strip then and
there. … It seemed apparent that
Barry was trying to seduce the woman right in front of” his friend
who had a crush on the girl. She appeared “sympathetic to the
theoretical argument but not
ready to put it into practice.” 9. Obama loved to wear hats in
college. “Mark Parsons said Obama
displayed one small trait that
showed he wanted to be a player:
he wore a lot of ‘stupid hats.’ He
usually wore them cocked, to look
cool.” 10. In his younger days, Obama
smoked his cigarettes like he
smoked his weed. “His friends noticed that Barry had
a peculiar smoking style, a little
affectation. He turned his wrist up
and cupped the cigarette between
thumb and index finger. He smoked
a cigarette the same way he smoked a joint.” 11. Obama joked that he would
stop smoking after he got married
because it would be OK to get fat
then. Mark Parsons: “I remember him
telling me he would quit after he
got married. He didn’t want to quit
smoking because he said he would
gain weight, but after he got
married it would be okay to gain weight. I think it was mostly a
joke.” 12. The camera loved Obama, and
he loved it back. At Occidental, fellow student Lisa
Jack asked to photograph him in
her apartment, and Obama stole
the show. “It was one of those times when
his ambition was unmistakable … He
blew smoke like he was on a Bob
Dylan album jacket. he put on his
hat and cocked it low like he was
Jimi Hendrix. he walked toward a heating grate and knelt down like
Miles Davis. “These are all his ideas,
not mine,” Jack recalled. “No one
else got up to stand over the
grate with a hat on. Nobody. I
think he was into it. he was pleased he had been asked. … In
one roll of film Barry goes from
innocent baby to Jimi Hendrix to a
Black Panther–from having furn
to thoughtful to angst.” 13. Obama was that guy in college
who didn’t study much but still got
better grades than you. Friends in his class at Occidental
“returned from the library late
one night and found Obama
lounging on the Barf Couch,
smoking.” … “‘Did you finish your project?'”
they asked. “‘I’ve written it,’ Obama responded.
‘I just haven’t written it down.’ A
while later Barry ‘wandered off to
the library’ and pulled an all-
nighter writing a paper that
eventually got an A+.” 14. Obama was known to show
compassion to those who seemed
lonely or different. Friend Kofi Manu said, “Obama was
especially friendly to people who
seemed lonely or felt a sense of
otherness …’If you are alone he will
come up next to you and engage
you in conversation,” Manu recalled. ‘People would say he was
engaging, but I would say it
differently. He comes to you. He is
drawn to people.'” 15. Five writing tips from a future
president. A friend sent Obama a manuscript
for editing, Obama wrote back
with five tips: 1) “Careful about too many
adverbs, particularly describing
how people speak (Paul asked
disbelievingly, etc.) It can be
cumbersome and a bit intrusive on
the reader” 2) “Resist the temptation of easy
satire…Good satire has to be a
little muted. Should spill out from
under a seemingly somber
situation.” 3) “Try to get the basic stats on
the characters out of the way
early {Paul was 24} so that you
can spend the rest of the story
revealing character.” 4) “Think about the key moment(s)
in the story, and build tension
leading to those key moments.” 5) “[W]rite outside your own
experience…I find that this works
the fictive imagination harder.” 16. Obama slept outside in an alley
on his first night in New York. “Obama arrived in New York a
week before [his roommate], but
when he reached 109th Street he
did not have a key to the
apartment and could not
find anyone to give him one. he spent his first night in the big city
outside, curled up in a nearby
alleyway, and woke up with a
white hen pecking at his face.” 17. Obama says he wasn’t very
interested in running for office
during his college days. “I don’t think I could see a clear
path [to the presidency],” Obama
told Maraniss in an interview for
the book. “At that age I was much
more interested in being a leader
outside of politics. If you had asked me during that time what kind of
career I’d love to have, more likely
I would have said something like a
Bob Moses [the civil rights leader],
maybe with a slightly higher profile
than that. … I would not have precluded politics, but during that
period I was pretty skeptical of it.
There weren’t a lot of political
figures at that time that I
particularly admired.” 18. When it came to social life,
Obama was friendly, but he was no
Bill Clinton. Amelia Rugland, a student at
Columbia recalls: “When you’d see him walking in the
hall he always looked like he was
thinking of something … He was
interesting. He didn’t talk to
everybody and know everybody’s
names. He was not gregarious. It was more that he was obviously
very aware of other people and
their surroundings … He just
seemed really engaged in what he
was working on.” 19. Obama the doodler. “Wherever he went in Chicago, he
had a pen and notebook with him.
He constantly jotted notes or
doodled. Since his lower school
days at Punahou, when he got
into superhero comics, he had shown a penchant for sketching
figures and faces. ‘He was always
doodling, drawing, writing He could
draw,’ Loretta Augustine-Herron
recalled. ‘He could draw when we
were in meetings, thing like that. He usually had a legal pad.'” 20. How Obama liked to chillax. From a postcard Obama sent to
friend Phil Boerner while he was
back in Indonesia: “I’m sitting on
the porch in my sarong, sipping
strong coffee and drawing on a
clove cigarette, watching the heavy dusk close over the paddy
terraces of Java. Very kick back,
so far away from the madness.”