Lot 70: Barack Obama. Only four copies traced! History-changing book by Obama's father

Adams Amsterdam Auctions

June 19, 2017
Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Description: OBAMA, Barack H. Sr. Otieno Jarieko [Otieno the Wise Man]. Kampala & Nairobi & Dar es Salaam, East African Literature Bureau: Eagle Press, 1959. Sm. 4to. 2 vols.: [Anonymous]. 'Wise ways of health' ('Yore mabeyo mag rito ngima') and Barack OBAMA. 'Wise ways of farming' ('Yore mabeyo mag puro pwothe' [pwothe spelled puothe on title page]). Original illustrated paper covers. Both illustrated by William Agutu. Sl. creased, several light stains, else fine. Very rare. 40; 40 pp.
Vol. 2: Reader written in Luo by Barack Obama Sr., the father of the 44th President of the United States, for the Education Department of Kenya. Barack Obama Sr. wrote the book(s) featuring Otieno, the wise man for an adult literacy programme. All 3 books issued in this series were more than likely written by Obama, but the first volume doesn't mention the author.

The Library of Congress Blog ( https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2013/07/a-rare-book-by-another-obama-2/ ): "The African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress holds an exceedingly rare copy —only four are believed to exist— of a book written decades ago in Kenya by the president’s father. “Otieno, the Wise Man,” or “Otieno Jarieko” in the original Luo (Dholuo), was published in Kenya in 1959 to promote literacy at a time when adult illiteracy was widespread". As the story goes it was "the book's editor who helped Barack Sr. get to the United States, where he met and married a woman with whom he had the child who would become the first African American to be elected president". In other words, although only very few copies survive, Otieno marks a crucial moment in the lives of the Obamas and in the history of the world. Barack Obama Jr. last saw his father when he was ten years old.

In the words of Mary-Jane Deeb, chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division (quoted from the above blog): “Books like ‘Otieno’ are part of the historical documentation of presidents and their families. This book documents, in a tangible way, the father of the first African American president. It helps show what his values and interests were and helps illustrate what kind of man he was.”

As a matter of fact, if Obama Sr. had not met Betty Moony, the editor of the series, he would never have chosen Honolulu, would never have met Ann Dunham and the former president would never have been born. But she did and - according to the same blog - "leafing through the Saturday Evening Post magazine, she saw an article about a “colorful campus of the islands” — a school with a beautiful setting and a multiracial student body. She passed the article to Obama, who liked what he saw and chose to attend the University of Hawaii. There, he met Ann Dunham. They married" and the rest is history.

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