Obama's Brother Remembers

The China-based brother of U.S. President Barack Obama is about to publish his own memoir.
Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
Mark Ndesandjo in Guangzhou, Nov. 12, 2009.
Mark Ndesandjo in Guangzhou, Nov. 12, 2009.

GUANGZHOU, China—U.S. President Barack Obama's half-brother, Mark Ndesandjo, says he plans to publish an autobiography in a few months' time giving more details about their relationship.

"In a few months I hope to produce an autobiography which I think will answer some of the questions," Ndesandjo said in an interview on the eve of Obama's first state visit to China.

"The first time I met him, back in Nairobi, it was very intense. It was a very intense meeting," recalled Ndesandjo, who has recently also self-published a semi-autobiographical novel titled Nairobi to Shenzen.

"I remember at that time that I saw this tall man, and he had lots of hair, but he was not smiling. He was very serious. And I said, 'Is that my brother?'"

"The details will be in the autobiography," he said.

Search for self

Obama will tour China from Nov. 15-18, during which he will hold talks with his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao.

Ndesandjo, a U.S. citizen who lives in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, holds bachelor's degrees in physics and math from Brown University, a master's degree in physics from Stanford and an MBA from Emory.

An accomplished musician, he has been teaching the piano during his time in China, in addition to providing English instruction and helping orphaned and underprivileged children.

Ndesandjo was married in China following his relocation to the country nearly seven years ago and has dedicated himself to studying Mandarin Chinese and Chinese calligraphy in his free time.

Having earlier turned down media requests for interviews until the book launch at the beginning of this month, he said his brother's victory in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections inspired him to look for greater self-awareness.

"Certain things happened to make me look at myself. And I discovered more about myself, and it was like a learning process," Ndesandjo said.

"This book for me was like learning about myself...Some places were very difficult," he said.

"But I knew that it would be good for...people to know about these things."

Ndesandjo said that during his first meeting with Obama in Kenya, "we had a long discussion about many things...and it was a very intense feeling that I had."

Shaped by their father

He said the brothers' feelings about each other were heavily influenced by their experience of the father they shared.

"Barack has used his way, and I have used my way to try to understand ourselves more, and our father was an important part of that. And my book, Nairobi to Shenzhen, shows how I have tried to understand that," Ndesandjo said.

He said the book contains material that sprang from his experience of an abusive father, who married his mother, Ruth Nidesand, two years after leaving Obama's mother.

"The goal was to raise awareness of domestic violence," Ndesandjo said.

"This is a problem that goes on in society, and I think that people need to talk about this...a little bit more."

"All my life I've been writing. I think it's because I lived in different countries...I've had many experiences in life."

White House officials have declined to discuss Obama's relationship with his half-brother.

Barack Obama Sr. met Ndesandjo's mother Ruth Nidesand while studying at Harvard University, shortly after divorcing the president's mother.

The couple returned to his native Kenya, where Ndesandjo and his brother David—who died in an accident some years ago—were born and grew up.

But they divorced some years later, amid allegations of domestic abuse, and Nidesand returned to the U.S.

Ruth Nidesand took the surname of her second husband.

Obama Sr., who died in 1982, also had four children with his first wife.

He was largely absent from the life of the president, who saw his father only once after his parents' divorce, at the age of 10.

Original reporting in Cantonese by Heidi Siu. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.

Comments (6)

Anonymous Reader

How many more Obama 'brothers' are out there that no one knows about? 10? 100? 1000? Their daddy didn't waste any time 'with the ladies', it seems...

Nov 15, 2009 11:53 PM

Anonymous Reader

What other reason might the President have for going to China than perhaps meeting with his half brother and ask him to keep his mouth shut about certain things. I would be willing to bet on it.

Nov 14, 2009 10:21 PM

Anonymous Reader

Maybe this guy will tell the truth, and probably loves america more than his brother who should be the president of his brothers country. more of his stride

Nov 14, 2009 06:23 PM

Anonymous Reader

What's been discovered is that Pres. Obama had no contact with his father.

Nov 14, 2009 11:41 AM

Anonymous Reader

Time is a valuable issue. Is it time Obama's half-brother will issue some actual facts and details about Obama? How close were they? Will he tell the truth, or place many lies in favor of his half-brother? Time will tell.

Nov 14, 2009 10:34 AM

View all comments.





More Listening Options

View Full Site