Obama sibling writes about abusive father
By Li Wenfang (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-11-05 08:48
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GUANGZHOU: The half brother of US President Barack Obama, who has kept out of the limelight until now, launched a semi-autobiographical book yesterday and announced plans for a full autobiography.

His partly fictional novel is entitled Nairobi to Shenzhen.

Obama sibling writes about abusive father

Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo, a resident of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, for the past seven years, said at a press conference in Guangzhou that his book is not about his famous sibling but his own life.

Barack Obama and Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo had the same father, Barack Obama Sr., who is described in the book as an abusive man who beat his wife and son.

"President Obama has helped inspire me to come to terms with my past," Ndesandjo said.

He plans to donate 15 percent of proceeds from the book to charitable organizations via his Help the Kids foundation.

The book has four main themes: domestic violence, the pursuit of dreams, the spirit of service and the power of love.

"I want this book to raise awareness of domestic violence and help improve the lives of disadvantaged children everywhere," he said.

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Ndesandjo said his late father, characterized by his mother as a brilliant man, was a social failure. "I remember times in my house when I would hear screams and I would hear my mother's pain," he said.

His American mother, Ruth Nidesand, was Barack Obama Sr.'s third wife.

Obama Sr. met Nidesand when he was a graduate student at Harvard University, shortly after divorcing the president's mother, Stanley Ann Dunham.

Nidesand returned with Obama Sr. to his native Kenya in 1965, where Mark and his brother David were born and raised.

Obama Sr. had four other children in Kenya with his first wife, Kezia.

Nidesand and Obama Sr. eventually divorced amid allegations of domestic abuse and Nidesand returned to the US, where she married a man whose surname was taken by Mark Ndesandjo.

"My skin had turned hard, emotionally, for so many years, because of what I'd seen my mother go through," said Ndesandjo, who added that his life had changed since his half brother was elected president and the glare of the media hit him.

Obama is set to visit China between Nov 15 and 18 and Ndesandjo hopes to meet him in Beijing.

"My plan is to introduce my wife to him. She is his biggest fan," he said of his Chinese spouse from Henan province.

Ndesandjo, who speaks Chinese, said Americans can learn from China's culture and its deep-rooted family ties.

"China is about family ... there is a tremendous, wonderful sense of family here."

But Ndesandjo, who moved to China in 2001 and who now runs a consulting firm in Shenzhen and a barbeque restaurant chain along with Chinese partners, said he has tried to focus on issues that are dear to him, instead of his family ties and famous brother. He is passionate about music, writing and calligraphy and teaches piano to disadvantaged children.

"I want to be known as a writer, not for my relationship to the president," he said.

In the past, Ndesandjo has been reluctant to talk to the press about his brother.

"I have avoided the media for a long time," he said. "But I have decided to give a limited number of interviews because I want to tell my story, not have others tell it for me."

He said the joy and hope on people's faces on election night made him intensely proud of his brother and of being an Obama.

Ndesandjo, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in the US, worked for 15 years in telecommunications, international marketing and branding at Lucent, Nortel and other companies.

In January, he staged a charity concert in Shenzhen, where he has taught disadvantaged children to play the piano.

AP, Reuters contributed to the story