The rise of Barack Obama is one of the great stories of this century: a defining moment in American history, and one with truly global resonance. Until now, no journalist or historian has written a book that fully investigates the circumstances and experiences of Obama’s life or explores the ambition and conviction behind his journey to election. The Bridge – from a writer whose gift for illuminating the historical significance of unfolding events is unsurpassed – offers a portrait, at once masterly and fresh, nuanced and unexpected, of the man who was determined to become the first African-American president.
Through extensive on-the-record interviews with friends and teachers, mentors and disparagers, family members and Obama himself, David Remnick allow us to see an early life coloured by absence and uncertainty: one that asked demanding questions of a rootless and literate man in search of himself, sending him firstly towards social work and then into law. Deftly setting Obama’s burgeoning political career against the volatile scene in Chicago, Remnick shows us how it was that city’s complex racial legacy that shaped the young politician and made his first forays into politics a source of controversy and bare-knuckle tactics: his clashes with older black politicians in the Illinois State Senate, his disastrous decision to challenge the former Black Panther Bobby Rush for Congress in 2000, the sex scandals that would decimate his more experienced opponents in the 2004 Senate race, and the story – from both sides – of his confrontation with his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright.
In exploring the way in which Barack Obama imagined and fashioned an identity for himself against the backdrop of race in America, Remnick illuminates an American life without precedent, and reminds us that, electrifying though Obama’s victory may have been, there was nothing fated about it. Interrogating both the personal and political elements of the story – and, most crucially, the points at which they intersect – he gives shape to a decisive period of American history, and in turn, to the way it crucially influenced, animated and motivated a gifted and complex man.