When he first took the national stage, with his electrifying keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 2004, Barack Obama, then an Illinois state senator, briefly summarized his unusual life story, with its biracial themes and trans-continental setting. “I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story,” he said, adding: “In no other country on earth is my story even possible.”
That story, of course, would become even more astonishing, and profoundly American, four years later, when its teller would be elected president of the United States. But the first time Obama related his life story — and in the greatest detail — was with the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.
That process has now reached a kind of zenith, with the publication last month of Barack Obama: The Story, a deeply researched, 600-page study of the president’s ancestry and early life by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and Washington Post editor David Maraniss. The result reflects the hyper-scrutiny that attaches to our chief executives. It also offers a window into how much of the life story of this self-made man may have been made up.