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by TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER & r & Hopes and Dreams; The Story of Barack Obama by Steve Dougherty & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & A & lt;/span & ccording to a Gallup survey taken last month, 94 percent of Americans queried said they'd be willing to vote for an African-American candidate for president next year, which leads politicians from both sides to wonder: Will 2008 be the Year of Obama?





Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961, the son of a Kenyan diplomat-student father and a white Kansas-born mother. When Obama (whose first name means "blessed" in Swahili) was two years old, his father moved to New York to pursue further studies. Obama's mother planned to join her husband at a later time, but because of distance, their relationship deteriorated and they divorced. It wasn't until nine years later that young Barack again met the man whose name he bore, yet Dougherty claims that Obama never really knew the man who was his father until after the elder Obama's death.





Because of his maternal grandfather's connections, Barack Obama was educated at a private Hawaiian school and went to college in California, and then at Columbia University. After graduation from Columbia, he worked at a series of jobs that made money but didn't satisfy him. Eventually, he began working with a grassroots community organizer on Chicago's South Side, a job that offered $10,000 a year with a $2,000 car allowance and that instilled in him ideals and viewpoints that now make him Oprah's close friend, a Grammy Award winner, a wildly successful author, a darling of the paparazzi and possibly the next President of the United States.





While author and People magazine writer Steve Dougherty's version of Obama's life story is fascinating reading -- and the dozens of pictures are great to see -- this book felt more to me like a campaign piece than a biography. That's not to say that you shouldn't read it, but that you should read between the lines if you intend to learn more about the candidate himself, and not about what others think of him. Still, because this is the first biography of Obama not written by Obama, Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama gets my vote as a good place to start.

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