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

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
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May 15, 2008

really liked it
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Read in May, 2008

At first I had trouble believing this book was written by a politician--reading it felt like being Alice walking around in Wonderland seeing things through a funhouse mirror. Politicians are supposed to write safe, sanitized books with boring but reassuring cadences. Maybe we expect them to be like airplane pilots--it only feels right when they stay within the lines and pretend like they're completely in charge of themselves and everything else. But this one veered off into directions only a true individual could go. Obama is a fine literary memoirist, with some lovely passages and some soul-searching excursions. And he's obviously a loner, an outsider, an observer by nature, which is nice when you're a writer. I just wonder how much of this thoughtful, honest exploration of self and race and society and the meaning of family will be pulled out of context by November.
Here's something sweet and vulnerable:
"Three o'clock in the morning. The moon-washed streets empty, the growl of a car picking up speed down a distant road. The revelers would be tucked away by now, paired off or alone, in deep, beer-heavy sleep ... And now just the two of us, me and Billie Holiday, her voice warbling through the darkened room, reaching toward me like a lover. 'I'm a fool ... to want you. Such a fool ... to want you.'"

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Carolyn Yes, exactly. Could he have known he'd be running for president when he wrote this? Obama has proven through his 2 years of campaigning that he is no risk taker (and doesn't really appear to be one in this memoir, either), and yet, this book rings dangerously true. He touches all of the nerves: the flaws in the adults who lovingly raised him, both the greatness and the dismaying pettiness (and sometimes outright ugliness) of his family in Africa, his uncertain negotiation of the treacherous minefield of race and class as an adolescent and young adult.
It's very interesting how almost none of what he wrote here was used to attack him during the campaign. There is *plenty* that could be used as ammuniation here--in and out of context. What do you make of that?


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