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The Mystery of the Kenyan Birth

Reading the extraordinary revelation about Barack Obama’s youthful literary career on Breitbart.com -- that his agents published a promotional book in 1991 with a bio of Obama saying he was born in Kenya -- set my old mystery writer mind ablaze.

How could that be? Why would they think such a thing?

There are only two forks in this road -- either he was born in Kenya or he wasn’t.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist and will assume the latter, although I have to confess that for the first time, given this revelation, I have the tiniest soupçon of doubt.

Nevertheless, the more interesting, and actually frightening and depressing, conclusion is the former. So what if he was born in Kenya? At least we know why he lied about it. He wanted to be president.

But why did Obama’s agents think he was born in Kenya? That’s a more interesting question. (Obama, of course, is a liar either way.)

I will leave aside for the moment the question of whether he vetted the agent’s material himself. As the author of eleven published books and seven produced feature films, I have had plenty of dealings with agents and publicity people and always looked over the bios they had written about me. Every author I ever talked to about it always did too. We’re those kind of egotists. But I have no way of proving that Obama did -- although I would faint if he hadn’t.

But whatever he did, the question remains. Why did they put “Born in Kenya” in his bio and leave it there until 2007? The latter part of that question can of course be ascribed to normal human sloth, but the first part -- there’s the rub.

Here are the explanations I can think of:

  1. Obama told them.
  2. It was in some early draft of Obama’s abandoned book (Journeys in Black and White) he submitted to them.
  3. Obama wrote it in his book proposal to them.
  4. Obama told them in a query letter.
  5. Obama answered one of those biographical forms.
  6. … Well, I’m running out because they all amount to the same thing.

There is one other possibility. The agents simply made up the place of Obama’s birth, but I have never in all my life heard of a literary agent doing such a thing. It’s possible I suppose, but hardly likely. And why?

Anyway, per Occam’s Razor, I am going with the obvious -- the agent’s source for Obama’s birthplace was… Barack Obama.

But again why? Why would he lie about where he was born?

Well, he might have wanted to glamorize his past, but if that’s so, it’s pathetic. I suspected there was a more substantive reason, one that would cause him to leave his African birth place in place in the bio. But to take the risk of being found out, it would have to be strong.