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

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
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Jan 23, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: political

This is one of those books that I want to buy for everyone I know. Apart from any of the political ideas in the book or whether or not one is excited by his presidency, Obama is a fantastic writer -- this is one of the best memoirs I have ever read. Apart from an occasional slip into melodramatic prose (very occasional, and certainly less than the average memoir), the prose balanced clarity and description, and Obama very consciously keeps from slipping into nostalgia or over-idealizing any time in his life or place he visits. After his terms in office (note the optimistic plural!), he could easily have a career as an author. Had he never become president, or even entered politics, this would be a book worth reading, and one of the best modern coming-of-age stories out there.

Slipping from review into personal politics, reading this book was exhilarating. Like much of his base, I've been a fan of Obama's ever since the '04 Convention. I was actually voting for Richardson (yes, I was part of that 2% of the electorate) up until Obama gave his speech on race last March, when I decided not only would he make a good president, but that America NEEDED Obama. Still, I never read any of his writing -- didn't want to be too rabid, and even know I know that, over the next eight years he will disappoint me, make compromises, and have to be part of the political machine.

I was excited enough to travel do get out the vote on election day and to brave D.C. for the inauguration, and yet reading this book made me even MORE excited that this man is our president. Because he gets it: us, America, blacks, whites, working-class people, intellectuals, immigrants. The fact that a man who has had the thoughts he puts in this book, who has struggled with coming of age as a young black man, who has loved his white mother, organized in the projects of Chicago, struggled in school, and travelled to Africa is running our country is amazing. His insights on race, history, identity, and class are some of the most nuanced and astute I've read -- he understands how his white grandfather could be both a well-intentioned progressive and yet involuntarily racist at the same time; how young black men can be both victims of and perpetuators of the myths of masculinity and race that ensnare them; how most people are actually good but that being good isn't necessarily enough to escape the weight of history and mutual misunderstanding.

Whether you have a huge crush on Obama (like myself!), are more restrained, or even didn't vote for him, you owe it to yourself to read this book, to better understand where the man who is now our President is coming from.
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Reading Progress

02/26/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy Exuberant review, Chris, thanks.


Chris Thanks -- I feel exuberant!


Manny I'm also a huge Obama fan, and I liked this book, but I thought Audacity of Hope was even better. Surprised not to see a review here!



Chris i've obviously though of reading it, but always thought it would be a bit of the choir going to the sermon (if i can invert that cliche).


Manny Well, I was surprised how much there was in it that I hadn't heard before. It's a much better book than I'd expected.


Chris well, i've got 8 months of stay at home dad-dom ahead -- i'll add it back to my to-read list


message 7: by Malbadeen (new)

Malbadeen woah-hey and Hey-woah!!!! You're gonna be a dad?! soon? CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! (that didn't take you long).


Chris actually, NOW -- my son came home on monday! There's cut pictures on Nat (and mom and dad, too, but that's not the point now, is it) up at flickr:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrismul...

Thanks for the congrats, and no, it didn't take long at all - our case worker has forbid us from telling any of her other prospective parents how fast we went (supposedly the pics of me with my mohawk and a friends little kid were very popular)


BRAIN_QUEEN the baby burrito pic is awesome!!!


Chris Yeah, now we just have to remember not too eat him -- he's so cute, its a constant danger. . . .


message 11: by trivialchemy (new)

trivialchemy wow, congratulations, dad!


Manny Oh, he is super-cute! Congratulations!!


Chris Thanks everyone! He is wonderful -- and his mother is obsessed with taking pictures of him, so there will be no lack of cute baby pictures for anyone who needs a cute baby fix.


message 14: by Joe (new)

Joe I loved this memoir, i find him a superb writer. If only he could have stayed one!

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn1...




message 15: by Loc (new)

Loc Pham Barack Obama's life not only makes for a great story, it shows a lot about the character of the man telling it--both in the way he tells it, but also in the events that happened and the way he handled them. I am impressed by his level of honesty about himself--he does not paint himself to be pristine, but makes himself very human. It is in this exposure of his vulnerabilities, his fears, his insecurities that he becomes like us--simply human. On that level, we can connect to the story of his life and let it enrich our own experience.


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