And Then Life Happens

I was attracted to this book largely because of the author’s last name : Obama.

This book was originally written in German because, having spent her formative adult years studying and working in Germany, it seemed more natural that Auma Obama would want to write in that language. (It was translated into English by Ross Benjamin in the same year.)

The book is written in three sections: Kenya, Germany and England & Kenya.

In the first section, Auma gives an account of her family life in Kenya, explaining the relationship between the members in her large family. Her mother Kezia married her father, Barack Obama Sr., when she was 16 years old, giving up her studies to be with him. When he left the village to pursue further education overseas, he met an American woman and married her (Ann Dunham, mother of Barack Jr and sister Maya) when Auma was 4 years old (her brother Abongo was 6). The marriage ended in divorce and Ann went to live in Indonesia to pursue her research in anthropology, leaving Barack Jr (one year younger than Auma) and his sister with their Gramps (who assumed the role of a father) in Chicago. Barack Sr would marry a third time and have two more sons with American-Jewish Ruth Baker (stepmother of Barack Jr). Barack Jr was only 2 years old when his father left for Hawaii, and he did not see his father again until he was 10.

The second section began with the death of Barack Sr at 43 years old. All this while, Barack Jr (whose nickname was “Barry”, which he hated) lived in the United States while Auma spent many years in Germany for study and work. Auma and Barack Jr got in touch in 1984, and it was the beginning of a friendship that has meant more than just a sibling relationship. Barack Jr invited Auma to Chicago where he proved to be a really good cook, especially in Indonesian food. Barack Jr visited Auma in Kenya too, and their shared experiences meant there was no question that the two of them would remain in close contact. Auma was a bridesmaid in Barack Jr’s wedding to Michelle in Chicago in 1992.

In the third section, Auma tells of how she’s married and settled in England in Aug 1996. She has a daughter, Akinyi. They visited Barack and Michelle in Chicago. When Barack was elected senator, they met his daughters Malia (a year younger than Akinyi) and Sasha for the first time. In Early 2001, Barack told her that he intended to run for presidency of the United States, and very soon she found paparazzi outside her front door. Due to the shared family name alone, she was catapulted into a world in which the media would continue to show an interest in her and her life. After Barack won the election, she was virtually bombarded with interview requests, which she mostly turned down. She flew to the States in Jan 2008 and spent several weeks there as a campaigner in the primaries. Her brother was elected the 44th president of the United States on 29 Jan 2009, and re-elected on 6 Nov 2012 for a second term. Auma is immensely proud of her brother’s victory.


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