Inside the diary of Obama’s old flame

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IOL pic may3 barack obama diary Reuters United States President Barack Obama

Washington - The secret diaries of an Australian woman, who was one of young Barack Obama's girlfriends, show the warmth and trust of the future president in love, but also hint at his reserve and “coolness”.

Accounts of the 1980s romance between Genevieve Cook and a twenty-something Obama in New York were excerpted in Vanity Fair magazine from a forthcoming book called Barack Obama: The Story by author David Maraniss.

Cook, the daughter of an Australian diplomat, remembered how “on Sundays Obama would lounge around, drinking coffee and solving the New York Times crossword puzzle, bare-chested, wearing a blue and white sarong”, Maraniss wrote.

The book also includes accounts from Cook's diaries, which show how the romance grew and then cooled when the couple moved in together, according to excerpts published in Vanity Fair magazine.

“The sexual warmth is definitely there - but the rest of it has sharp edges and I'm finding it all unsettling and finding myself wanting to withdraw from it all,” Cook wrote.

The account by Maraniss shows the young Obama trying to make sense of the different cultural and racial strands of his life, as the son of a white American woman and a Kenyan father who spent boyhood years in Indonesia.

He comes across as cerebral, searching, perhaps pretentious, brooding but earnest, and as an outsider - traits which, in one degree or another, marked his lightning rise to the top of US politics two decades later.

“His warmth can be deceptive,” Cook wrote. “He speaks sweet words and can be open and trusting, there is also that coolness.”

In 1984 she commented in the diary: “Barack still intrigues me, but so much going on beneath the surface, out of reach. Guarded, controlled.”

In 1985, after the relationship ended, Cook looked back on their time together and mentioned in her journal that she thought Obama withheld “the kind of emotional involvement I was seeking”.

“I'm left wondering if Barack's reserve etc is not just the time in his life, but, after all, emotional scarring that will make it difficult for him to get involved even after he's sorted his life through with age and experience.”

Cook, who met Obama at a Christmas Party in New York's East village in 1983, had not previously revealed the diaries.

The account of their time together, while Obama was in his formative years working in New York, shows the couple poring through books together - or cooking.

Obama loved to make tuna sandwiches with dill peppers, just like his grandfather made him, Maraniss wrote. - Sapa-AFP

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