President Obama wrote an autobiography more like “literature” than a personal history because he was “trying to see everything through a racial lens,” according to the author of a new biography on the president.
“He was trying to see everything through a racial lens; that was the original purpose of that book,” David Maraniss, author of Barack Obama: The Story said on MSNBC of Obama’s youthful memoir, Dreams of my Father. “And so, there are times when characters who are black are enhanced in the book and characters who are white are left out of the book, but it’s all for a reason, there’s a purpose for it.”
Maraniss’ book reveals how Obama’s use of the “racial lens” distorted his personal history. Consider, for instance, the ostensibly black young woman named “Regina” who — by describing her history as a child with a strong mother but no father in her life — Obama said taught him how to see “a vision of black life in all its possibility, a vision that filled me with longing.” Regina didn’t actually exist.
“Regina, Maraniss thinks, was the combination of a wealthy white girl (there were lots of them at Oxy, then and now, none overly familiar with the authentic black American experience) and a female black upperclassman who grew up middle class,” The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson explains. “But that crucial background that Regina recounts to the narrator—the upbringing that inspired Obama to discover his voice and set in motion a train of events that led him to leave Occidental and the West for New York City and Columbia University—belonged to neither of Obama’s friends.”
Maraniss told Morning Joe not to draw any lessons about Obama’s character from these fictions. “I think it says more about a writer’s pressures to try to tell a story than anything about his larger character,” he said.