Obama's Half-Brother Recasts Story Of Their Father One person who plans to meet with President Obama during his trip to China is his half-brother, Mark Obama Ndesandjo, who lives in China. Ndesandjo has recently released a semi-autobiographical novel, revealing the abusive nature of their father.
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Obama's Half-Brother Recasts Story Of Their Father

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Obama's Half-Brother Recasts Story Of Their Father

Obama's Half-Brother Recasts Story Of Their Father

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Michele Norris.

Now a tale of two brothers, but no ordinary brothers. One is Mark Ndesandjo who lives in China, the other is his half brother President Barack Obama. Just as the president is due to arrive in China, his half brother has released a semi-autobiographical novel revealing the abusive nature of their father. In a rare interview, Ndesandjo talked to NPR's Louisa Lim.

LOUISA LIM: The eyes are familiar yet different. The face bears an uncanny resemblance to his more famous sibling. Mark Obama Ndesandjo and Barack Obama share the same father. Barack Obama hardly knew their father, who left when Barack was just two years old. But his younger half-brother Mark Ndesandjo grew up in Kenya under the same roof as their father.

Mr. MARK OBAMA NDESANDJO (Author, �Nairobi to Shenzhen�): He managed to work his way up through, probably sheer intellect, will, and also at the same time, persistence to go to Harvard and some very high levels in American society, then something happened. It was an explosive mixture of drink, maybe disappointment and at the same time an inability to understand his own demons that caused the domestic violence that we had in our home.

LIM: Ndesandjo wrestles with that legacy in his semi-autobiographical book �Nairobi to Shenzhen.� Like Mr. Obama, Ndesandjo's mother was a white American, so the book describes his struggle with his multiracial identity. Like Mr. Obama, he went to university in the U.S., but his academic success was overshadowed by those formative years in Kenya.

Mr. NDESANDJO: With me what happened is that I also didn't want anything to do with anything that had to do with my father. So, this could include, for example, aspects of African culture. It could be for example, you know, wanting to be associated with the Obama name.

(Soundbite of music)

LIM: After losing his marketing job in the U.S. after 9/11, Ndesandjo moved to China where he took refuge in music and community work. A gifted pianist - he's heard here on an album he recorded. He volunteers at a local orphanage. And last year, he married a Chinese woman. But he says Mr. Obama's election campaign turned his life upside down.

Mr. NDESANDJO: I didn't want anything to do with American politics. It's something that turns huge spotlights on everybody. But then what happened is slowly I began to see that there's an atmosphere around the world that was moving from one which had been in fear towards one of hope.

Unidentified Man: Ndesandjo has been living in China for seven years�

LIM: And the spotlight did indeed turn on Ndesandjo. Last year he flew to Austin, Texas, using money he had been saving to buy a piano, to meet Mr. Obama for the first time in many years. He describes that moment.

Mr. NDESANDJO: Well, first I hugged him, and he looked at my moustache, and he said, hey, what's this little thing here? And then I said, it's a moustache, dude. And then he said, oh, you have a little less hair than the last time I saw you. And I said to him, well, so do you. And he said, oh, I couldn't afford a haircut then. It was so emotional.

LIM: His half-brother's election has allowed him to take pride in the Obama name, which he hadn't used for many years. Their father � who had six other children � died in a car crash in 1982, but for both men his shadow looms large over their lives. Barack Obama described that influence in an NPR interview.

President BARACK OBAMA: You know, there's a wonderful saying by Lyndon Johnson that, you know, every man is either trying to live up to his father's expectations or making up for his mistakes. And I think in some ways I still chase after his ghost a little bit.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. NDESANDJO: That's interesting.

LIM: Does it apply to you, too?

Mr. NDESANDJO: Well, I guess in my case I don't see myself chasing after his ghost. I think for a long time his ghost was chasing after me.

LIM: Ndesandjo is planning to meet his half-brother on his trip to China, which starts this weekend.

Mr. NDESANDJO: I look at my brother and President Obama and I am so totally proud of all that he's been able to do. I'm extremely excited my brother is coming to China.

LIM: In his autobiography �Dreams From My Father,� Mr. Obama describes meeting Mark as being like looking into a foggy mirror. All these years later, Ndesandjo says he finally hopes to wipe clean the fog from that mirror.

Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.

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