| GUANGZHOU, China
GUANGZHOU, China Nov 4 U.S. President Barack
Obama's half-brother made a rare appearance on Wednesday in
southern China, his home for seven years, to launch a novel he
says draws on his painful childhood under an abusive father.
Mark Okoth Obama Ndesandjo -- who had the same, late,
father as the U.S. President -- has kept a low public profile
since reports surfaced last year that he was living and working
in the southern Chinese capitalist and manufacturing haven of
Shenzhen, around an hour's train ride from Hong Kong.
After repeatedly shunning media attention, Ndesandjo's
first major public appearance to launch his debut novel comes
less than two weeks before the U.S. president travels to China
for the first time.
While he said his work, "Nairobi to Shenzhen" is a
fictional account, it started off nearly 10 years ago as an
autobiography and "reflects many experiences in my own life as
a child brought up in Kenya" including a troubled relationship
with his father.
"My mother used to say of my father, he's a brilliant man
but a social failure," Ndesandjo told reporters at a press
conference in Guangzhou, near his adopted city of Shenzhen.
"I remember times in my house when I would hear screams and
I would hear my mother's pain." His American mother Ruth was
his father's third wife.
"My skin had turned hard emotionally for so many years
because of what I'd seen my mother go through," said Ndesandjo,
who is slim and bears an appearance similar to the president.
Ndesandjo's book details how the protagonist, David, made
an improbable journey to China in 2001 just after the September
11th attacks, inspired by his "growing love for a beautiful
Chinese woman and a young orphan", and reflects Ndesandjo's own
marriage to a young Chinese woman and his charitable work for
He was less forthright about his relationship with his
famous brother, however, saying that they are in touch and an
upcoming autobiography, for which he still hasn't found a
publisher, would give a fuller account of their family
background and ties.
"We're family, I love my family," said the crew-cut
Ndesandjo, who wore a burgundy bandana and professes a love for
the piano, Chinese calligraphy and classic works of Chinese
"I was so proud of my brother Barack," he said of his
sibling's becoming the first African-American U.S. president.
At a news conference in which he would only take five
written questions drawn from a box, he avoided any mention of
politics or U.S.-China relations but said Americans could learn
from China's culture and deep-rooted family ties.
"China is about family ... there is a tremendous, wonderful
sense of family here."
Ndesandjo gave a sense of his personality quirks and a
latent flamboyant streak during the conference. He sprinkled
his answers with references to Tolstoy and the Chinese literary
classic "A Dream of the Red Mansion", also speaking of passion
for music as a "universal language".
Reporters shown a video of a piano performance by the
diamond-earring wearing Ndesandjo, in which he tickled the
ivories for a catchy tune "Viper's Drag" by Fats Waller.
The book, whose cover depicts a dead tree against a red
background, will donate 15 percent of its proceeds to charity.
"I wanted to be known as a writer, not for my relationship
to the President," said Ndesandjo, who speaks with an American
(Editing by Jerry Norton)