New novel “Nairobi to Shenzhen” is patterned in part on Barack Obama Sr.
GUANGZHOU, China – President Barack Obama‘s half brother has broken his media silence to discuss his new novel — the semi-autobiographical story of an abusive parent patterned on their late father, the mostly absent figure Obama wrote about in his own memoir.
In his first interview, Mark Ndesandjo told The Associated Press that he wrote “Nairobi to Shenzhen” in part to raise awareness of domestic violence.
“My father beat my mother and my father beat me, and you don’t do that,” said Ndesandjo, whose mother, Ruth Nidesand, was Barack Obama Sr.’s third wife. “It’s something which I think affected me for a long time, and it’s something that I’ve just recently come to terms with.”
Like his novel’s main character, Ndesandjo had an American mother who is Jewish and who divorced his Kenyan father. The novel, which goes on sale Wednesday by the self-publishing company Aventine Press, is one of several books in the works by relatives of the president.
President Obama’s parents separated two years after he was born in Hawaii in 1961. The senior Obama, a Kenyan exchange student, divorced the president’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, in 1964 and had at least six other children in his native Kenya.
For the past seven years, Ndesandjo has been living in the booming southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong, and has refused all interview requests until now.
‘No concern for his wife and children’
Ndesandjo, who said he attended Obama’s inauguration as a family guest, declined to discuss his earliest memories of the president or describe their relationship over the years. However, he said he plans to meet his brother in Beijing when the president makes his first visit to China on Nov. 15-18.
“My plan is to introduce my wife to him. She is his biggest fan,” he said.
Shortly after divorcing the president’s mother, Obama Sr. met Nidesand while studying as a graduate student at Harvard University. Nidesand returned with Obama Sr. to his native Kenya in 1965, where Mark and his brother David were born and grew up. David later died in a motorcycle accident.
In Kenya, Obama Sr. also had four children with his first wife, Kezia, some of them while he was still married to Nidesand. Nidesand and Obama Sr. eventually divorced amid allegations of domestic abuse. Nidesand returned to the United States and later married a man whose surname Mark Ndesandjo took.
Obama Sr. died in an automobile accident in 1982 at age 46.
President Obama saw his father only once after his parents’ divorce, when he was 10 years old. In a best-selling memoir, “Dreams from My Father,” Obama wrote about his fatherless upbringing and search for identity.
In it, Obama described a visit to Kenya to meet his half siblings and learn more about his father. While painting his father as abusive, he called Obama Sr. a gifted but erratic alcoholic who never lived up to his intellectual promise or his family responsibilities.
Obama, in his book, also quotes Ndesandjo criticizing their father, saying, “I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife and children. That was enough.”