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Review: 'A Game of Character,' by Michelle Obama's big brother Craig Robinson, is not a tell-all

The news might have set off alarms in some past administrations: The president's brother-in-law has written a book. But you won't find dirty laundry in A Game of Character, the memoir from first lady Michelle Obama's brother, Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson.

Robinson writes that he and his parents didn't think Barack Obama stood much of a chance with his sister when they met him. They were on their porch on a summer night in Chicago when the couple stopped by on their way to a movie.

"Well, he's tall," Marian Robinson said while Obama was out of earshot.

"Not a bad-looking guy either," said her husband, Fraser. But even though the suitor struck the Robinsons as a self-possessed man with a nice smile and firm handshake, they figured he wasn't a keeper. "Too bad," Marian said. "Yep," Fraser answered. "She'll eat him alive."

Craig Robinson, 47, less than two years older than Michelle, was close to his only sibling. In childhood, they shared a bedroom separated by a divider. Miche, as he calls her, was a disciplined girl who saved money, who learned to box at their father's behest and who once conspired with him, upset that their parents smoked, to destroy every cigarette in the house.

Fraser Robinson's long struggle with multiple sclerosis is treated with compassion by his son, who writes that both parents urged him to excel and quotes his mother: "Knowledge acquired is something no one can take away from you."

The book is sprinkled with life lessons on how this brother and sister excelled and how Robinson, when confronted with challenge — including a rocky start at Princeton University and a first marriage that ended in divorce — picked himself up.

But amid homespun stories of the family's humble roots and Robinson's climb to a college-level coaching career, people hungering for more inside information about Barack and Michelle Obama may be a bit disappointed.

A Game of Character: A Family Journey From Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond

By Craig Robinson

Gotham, 288 pages, $26

Review: 'A Game of Character,' by Michelle Obama's big brother Craig Robinson, is not a tell-all 04/17/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 13, 2010 5:21pm]
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