Author: Juliet Suess|Benjamin DeLuca
biographer David Maraniss delivered a much anticipated talk on his book “Barack
Obama: The Story” Monday ahead of the Nov. 6 presidential election.
looking to demythologize people, as a historian. A lot of myths are created by
people who fear Obama and the changes he represents. I try to carefully
deconstruct those myths,” Maraniss said in a phone interview with the Weekly.
exhaustively researched Obama and his family in order to debunk myths about
Obama, spanning his research from election night in 2008 to his last
interview with Obama in Nov. of 2011. His intent was to explore Obama’s character through his family
and his upbringing. Maraniss’s research included an investigation of Obama’s
time at Occidental.
think that from the time he left Hawaii until Harvard was important era of his
life for self identity. It began at Occidental. The nature of the school,
reading programs, reinforced his sense of universal understanding, intellectual
awakening. The combination of professors and a group of more intellectual
students started to get him on the path that eventually led to his political
life,” Maraniss said.
also believes that Occidental students can take the example portrayed by Obama
and apply it to college life.
is the kind of person who is constantly adjusting and learning and growing.
This is a theme students can identify with and learn something from,” Maraniss
The Pulitzer Prize winning author worked very hard to
establish exactly what sort of person Obama is and how he came to be that way.
“Look at his life as a series of avoiding traps. He could
have easily gotten stuck in certain places, like the trap of being born
biracial and falling into accepting stereotypes about his identity. Every step
of his life he was looking ahead to where the traps were and trying to get
around them. People see him as somewhat disconnected nowadays at times, but I
think that is because of his efforts to look ahead and plan,” Maraniss said.
As a biographer, Maraniss has tried to distinguish between
who he is writing about and what the focus of that piece will be.
“My book about Bill Clinton was a more political book. Obama
book is more of a book about the modern world and about one man’s search for
identity,” Maraniss said.
With the changing political times, Maraniss was unsure
whether to even write the book.
“I consider modern political culture to be pretty toxic. I
debated whether or not to even write it. People will try and manipulate certain
parts of what I’ve found and distort it for their own gain,” he said.
And people have tried to distort the meaning of the story.
“The right wing has tried to cherry pick every possible
thing in the book that they could spin or call negative. I’ve responded pretty
strongly,” Maraniss said.
Despite Obama’s opposition picking apart his story, Maraniss
believes the story will bring more voters to Obama’s camp.
“People who read it will gain a deeper understanding of
Obama. I expect people would be more inclined to vote for him after reading the
book if they were completely neutral. But I don’t know who those people are,”
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