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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Obama’s Story, Written by Obama


Barack Obama was a first-time author and rookie politician embarking upon his first run for public office. Hermene Hartman was the publisher of N’Digo, a magazine in Chicago aimed at upscale black readers. As Ms. Hartman tells it, she got a call from Mr. Obama in the fall of 1995 saying he wanted to come and talk. He wanted her to read his newly published memoir.
Ms. Hartman read the book, “Dreams From My Father,” but chose not to review it. Mr. Obama’s life story struck her as too exotic for her readers — the Kenyan father, the white mother, the childhood in Honolulu and Jakarta, Indonesia. But she felt she had gotten to know him from his writing; when he ran for the United States Senate eight years later, N’Digo became the first magazine to put Mr. Obama on its cover.

“Barack is a very focused, determined person,” said Ms. Hartman, who now considers Mr. Obama a friend. “Barack would go to people one by one and say, ‘Here’s my book, I want you to read it, give me feedback.’ For me, as a publisher, he wanted me to write about it. He would call me every week and say, ‘Did you read my book?’ ”

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