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  • 16Nov

    Mark Obama Ndesandjo Tells His Story

    From NPR

    It is a tale of two brothers, but no ordinary brothers. One is president of the United States; the other is his half-brother, who lives in China. As President Obama arrives this weekend in China, his half-brother recently released a semi-autobiographical novel, revealing the abusive nature of their father.

    Mark Obama Ndesandjo’s face bears an uncanny resemblance to his more famous sibling. His eyes are familiar, yet different.

    Ndesandjo and Obama share the same father, but their lives have veered apart. Barack Obama hardly knew their father, who left when Barack was 2. But his younger half-brother Mark grew up in Kenya under the same roof as their violent authoritarian father.

    “He managed to work his way up through … sheer intellect, will and also, at the same time, persistence to go to Harvard and some very high levels in American society,” Ndesandjo says of their father. “Then something happened. It was an explosive mixture of drink, maybe disappointment and an inability to understand his own demons that caused the domestic violence we had in our home.”

    Ndesandjo (pronounced de-SANZ-jo) wrestles with that legacy in his semi-autobiographical book Nairobi to Shenzhen. Like Obama, his mother was a white American, so the book describes his struggle with his multiracial identity. Like Obama, he went to university in the U.S., studying physics and math at Brown, then earning further degrees at Stanford and Emory.

    But his academic success was overshadowed by those formative years in Kenya. He says the violence at home hardened him, making it difficult for him to forge relationships or even to look closely at himself.

    “With me what happened is that I also didn’t want anything to do with anything that had to do with my father. This could include aspects of African culture. It could be not wanting to be associated with the Obama name,” Ndesandjo says.

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