It almost seemed too good to be true. When President Barack Obama's 1995 memoir, "Dreams From My Father," was re-published soon after the young politican catapulted onto the national stage with a charismatic speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his amazing life story captured the hearts and minds of millions of Americans.
But like many memoirs, which tend to be self-serving, it now appears that Obama shaped the book less as a factual history of his life than as a great story. A new biography, "Barack Obama: The Story," by David Maraniss, raises questions about the accuracy of the president's account and delivers fresh revelations about his pot-smoking in high school and college and his girlfriends in New York City.
In his memoir, Obama describes how his grandfather, Hussein Onyango, was imprisoned and tortured by British troops during the fight for Kenyan independence. But that did not happen, according to five associates of Onyango interviewed by Maraniss. Another heroic tale from the memoir about Obama's Indonesian stepfather, Soewarno Martodihardjo, being killed by Dutch soldiers during Indonesia's fight for independence also is inaccurate, according to Maraniss.
The president explains in his memoir that some of the characters in his book have been combined or compressed. Maraniss provides more details about the extent of that alteration. One of Obama's "African American" classmates was based on Caroline Boss, a white student whose Swiss grandmother was named Regina, according to Maraniss, a Washington Post editor and author who has won a Pulitzer Prize. The president also described breaking up with a white girlfriend due to a "racial chasm that unavoidably separated him from the woman," writes Maraniss. But Obama's next girlfriend in Chicago, an anthropologist, also was white.
The young Obama's lack of playing time on the high school basketball team was due more to his ability than the coach's preference for white players, Maraniss writes. And Obama's mother likely left his father -- not the other way around -- after domestic abuse, note reviews of the book in the Los Angeles Times and Buzzfeed.
Here is a slideshow of the new biography's major revelations:
The 'Choom Gang'
According to Maraniss, Obama and his high school friends smoked a lot of weed and called themselves the "Choom Gang," invoking Hawaiian slang. Maraniss writes: "A self-selected group of boys at Punahou school who loved basketball and good times called themselves the Choom Gang. Choom is a verb, meaning 'to smoke marijuana.'"
'Moves Like Jagger'
In college, Obama listened to Jimi Hendrix, Earth, Wind & Fire and Billie Holliday. He was also known for his stunning impression of Mick Jagger.
Dorm Room 'Barf Couch'
Obama's "Barf Couch" got its name when a classmate got drunk and threw up on the couch and himself, according to Maraniss.
As an 8-year-old in Indonesia, Obama already wanted to be president, according to a paper he wrote in the third grade: <blockquote>"My name is Barry Soetoro. I am a third-grade student at SD Asisi. My mom is my idol. My teacher is Ibu Fer. I have a lot of friends. I live near the school. I usually walk to the school with my mom, then go home by myself. Someday I want to be president." </blockquote>
According to Maraniss, students at the Annex, Obama's dorm at Occidental College, knew how to have fun. Maraniss writes: <blockquote>"The hallway was a free-for-all forum of sorts, with permanent conversation on life, philosophy, sex, politics, school. It was also home to the impromptu Annex Olympics: long-jumping onto a pile of mattresses, wrestling in underwear, hacking golf balls down the hallway toward the open back door, boxing while drunk. Then there were the non-Olympic sports of lighting farts and judging them by color, tipping over the Coke machine, breaking the glass fire extinguisher case, putting out cigarettes on the carpet, falling asleep on the carpet, flinging Frisbees at the ceiling-mounted alarm bell, tossing pizza boxes to the floor, and smoking pot from a three-foot crimson opaque bong, a two-man event involving the smoker and an accomplice standing ready to respond to the order 'Hey, dude, light the bowl'"</blockquote>
In his senior year high school yearbook, Obama thanks the "Choom Ganga" and "Ray," who Maraniss says was his drug dealer. "Thanks Tut, Gramps, Choom Gang, and Ray for all the good times," Obama wrote.
Ivy League Discipline
Obama apparently started to become more serious around the time he transferred to Columbia University in 1981. Maraniss writes that "his pot smoking by then was diminishing" and a friend remarked that they were both "fairly disciplined."
How His Parents Met
Maraniss speculates that Barack Obama Sr., the president's father, and Stanley Ann Dunham, his mother, met in a Russian language class: "It is not clear why either Barack Obama or Stanley Ann Dunham enrolled in Russian, but logic leads in a few directions," Maraniss writes. Given that Obama Sr. was going back to Kenya, Maraniss says a "facility with Russian might serve Obama well in both government and politics." And for Obama's mother, "signing up for Russian was simply in character. She had already taken four years of French at Mercer Island High, and with her curious mind was on the search for something new and exotic, but also relevant, all of which described Russian."
Suspicious In Hawaii
Barack Obama Sr. was reportedly monitored by immigration authorities while he lived in Hawaii, Maraniss says. They were apparently suspicious of his relations with women. He was already married to a Kenyan woman when he married Stanley Ann Dunham, the president's mother. Obama Sr. "seemed to be making friends everywhere, perhaps too many friends of the opposite sex, according to immigration officials, who were monitoring his activities," Maraniss writes. When Obama Sr. married Dunham, a local INS official noted, "Barack H. Obama, a student at the University since 1959 was married on February 2, 1961 to Stanley Ann Dunham, a United States citizen from Seattle, Washington in Maui, Hawaii. The problem is that when he arrived in the U.S. the subject had a wife in Kenya."
Obama wrote an anti-war article in college, "Breaking the War Mentality" for <em>Sundial</em>, Columbia University's weekly newsmagazine. Obama's piece focused on student activist groups.
'Dreams of My Father' Inaccuracies
Obama's autobiography, "Dreams of My Father," contains inaccuracies, according to Maraniss, including that Barack's grandfather was not actually imprisoned and tortured by the British, and that Obama's mother left his father, <a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/andrewkaczynski/9-tall-tales-from-barack-obamas-memoir" target="_hplink">not the other way around</a>.
CORRECTION: This story was updated to correct the spelling of Caroline Boss' name. In addition, Regina was not her mother's name but her Swiss grandmother's name.