by Craig Robinson
Published: 2011 by Gotham Books (paperback edition)
Source: Received for review as part of TLC Blog Tour
Craig Robinson is Barack Obama's brother-in-law, the older brother of Michelle Obama. In the world of publishing today, when just about anyone can get a book deal (Snooki, anyone?), this family tie likely did not hurt his chances, but it is a shame that some people might judge him and his book on that point alone, because Mr. Robinson has put together a pretty successful and inspirational life of his own.
It's not a "rags to riches" story; the Robinson family was working class and made do with what they had, and even when Craig achieved his dream of coaching college basketball I don't think he would consider himself wealthy. But when at the age of nine a classmate commented that he wanted to have a family like the Robinsons because they were "rich":
At nine years old, I didn't know what rich was. But I did suspect what he meant was that my sister and I had both a dad and a mom, and that my parents really cared. And if that was being rich, then there was no question that's what we were.
The fact that the Robinsons were a rare entity in their neighborhood - a strong, cohesive family -- not only makes the achievements of their children understandable, but you still have to respect and admire Fraser and Marian Robinson for their parenting abilities.
When Craig starts playing basketball, first in neighborhood pickup games and then at the high school and college levels, he takes the lessons he learned from his parents and builds on those provided by his coaches. The details of basketball strategy are a bit too heavy for my taste, but he as he is so passionate about the game he seems to be able to use them to explain anything.
The historic Presidential election of 2008 is covered in the book, but only as another anecdote in the life of the Robinson family. Barack Obama just happens to be his little sister's husband who happened to achieve a very important position. Of course Craig's political views are implied, but not overtly so, and there is no political message to be taken from the book.
This is a very positive book and since I generally avoid these types of stories (I'm a bit of a cynic) I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed reading it. It is at times a bit too cheery (the editor should have limited the use of exclamation marks) but it is a book that anyone can read and can learn from.
Make sure to check out the other stops on A Game of Character's blog tour here