Sarah's Reviews > Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
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Apr 17, 2008

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Read in May, 2008

Barack Obama
Dreams From My Father
New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004
453 pp. $13.95
1-4000-8277-3


The United States is recognized as a nation of immigrants with the ability to re-invent themselves and adapt to the culture of their adopted home. However, it is the children of these immigrants who seek authenticity in forgotten and disregarded ethnic traditions, in search of their roots, of an identity. “Dreams From My Father,” Barack Obama’s autobiography recounts the odyssey Obama embarks upon, in hopes of discovering community and family, and ultimately himself.
Obama immediately whisks the reader into his atypical childhood, allowing one to experience firsthand, the trials and tribulations facing a cultural outsider, the offspring of a white mother and an African father, trapped between two dissimilar cultures. The readers travels alongside Obama and his peripatetic family, from the grasslands of Kansas to the white beaches of Hawaii, from Indonesia to Obama’s days as a campus activist in Los Angles, to his years serving as a community organizer in Chicago, and on to his arrival in his father’s birthplace of Kenya. Through his travels, Barack critically evaluates the battles confronting black Americans and intimately articulates his personal struggles to find his place in a world of black and white. He eloquently channels his anger and alienation into a fierce determination that later changed neighborhoods, and may well change the nation.
Feeling out of place in high school, Obama gravitates toward the black kids and works to embrace an African-American culture that matches others' expectations of his appearance, but is different from his upbringing and background. After graduating college, Obama sets off in search of community and purpose, with the great role models of the civil rights movement. However, the glory days of the civil rights movement were long gone when Obama gets an organizing job in a poor neighborhood on Chicago's South Side plagued by crumbling public housing, disappearing manufacturing jobs, and rising crime. During this time spent in Chicago, Obama develops a mix of idealism, political perceptiveness, and personal connection, later serving as the origins of his political career. Obama catalogs the ambiguities and subtleties of African-American identity, while relentlessly searching for his own. He constantly ponders his origin, “I was hoping you could tell. The name's Obama. Where do I belong?” (115). Barack insightfully illustrates the dilemmas challenging the livelihoods of African Americans.
This memoir follows Barack as he defines himself and his perspective on the world and finally finds himself welcomed into the community of humanity. One remains fully engaged as he/she embarks on Baracks’s journey into adulthood, addressing the concerns surrounding increasingly multicultural societies and individual attempts to navigate a constantly changing world. Obama struggles to be true to himself, but in order to do so, he must first figure out what that truly means.
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