Pioneers: The Frontier Family of Barack Obama

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9780863224331: Pioneers: The Frontier Family of Barack Obama
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Pioneers is a look at one immigrant family, the Kearneys, whose journey through a new land culminated in a stint in the Whitehouse. This is the incredible story of how the nation's first African-American President is also a direct descendent of post-famine Irish immigrants. Barack Obama has referred to his mother, Ann Dunham, as ""the dominant figure in my formative years... The values she taught me continue to be my touchstone when it comes to how I go about the world of politics."" This unique book tells the quintessential American story of her Irish ancestry: of her great-great-grandfather who emigrated from the small village of Moneygall, Ireland to the Scioto Valley in Ohio, and of his relatives who made the journey before him. This is the very real story of the 43rd President's ancestors, and their American Dream. ""What an amazing journey for one family in just 160 years, the story of America.""-Irish Voice ""Delves deep into history and has many differing routes. . . . An educational and thoughtful read.""-The Midwest Book Review ""MacDonogh writes a hypnotic account which pulls readers directly into the tales of wigmakers and pioneers, creating a historical arc of personal and national struggle.""--Irish America Magazine. ""Vivid descriptions of life in the late 1800s.""-Publishers Weekly

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From Publishers Weekly:

Perhaps we can't blame MacDonogh (Ireland, Open Book: One Publisher's War) for trying to strike while the iron is hot with this look at President Barack Obama's Irish ancestors and their emigration to the United States. And in fact the author does provide vivid descriptions of life in the late 1800s; pioneers traveled west from Baltimore "with trepidation," but without roads or bridges, crossing swollen streams that "demanded of man and horse that they should swim." MacDonogh explains that the cabin built by a distant Obama relative was "20 feet long–the longest maneuverable log length." But MacDonogh seems to include anything he deems relevant to an African-American president, such as Frederick Douglass, "an African-American orator and anti-slavery campaigner," who traveled to Ireland and was, MacDonogh claims, a significant influence on Obama. And the author includes what can only be considered an obligatory chapter on the Irish potato famine. Editorializing ("Inevitably, Barack Obama is experiencing the difficult transition from articulating hopes and aspirations to dealing in the everyday world of politics") should have been left to the pundits. (Dec.)
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From Booklist:

This well-researched book traces the forty-fourth U.S. president’s ancestry back to a small Irish village, Moneygall. In what will be a surprise, at least for some readers, Obama is shown to be descended from the Kearneys, an eighteenth-century family of Irish wig makers (although some members of the clan engaged in more scholarly pursuits, including political commentary). MacDonogh follows the Kearneys as, in the early- to mid-nineteenth century, they began immigrating to America, first to Baltimore, then to the Ohio frontier, finally spreading out across the country to places like Kansas, Washington, and Hawaii (home of the family-tree branch from which Obama descends). It’s a fascinating book, not just as the history of an American president but also as a history of an entire family and a chronicle of a particularly tumultuous time in Irish history, when potato blight led to the great famine, which in turn led to the Kearneys’ final move to America. Highly recommended for readers of biography and political history. --David Pitt

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