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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  172,505 ratings  ·  6,928 reviews
Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this lyrical, unsentimental, and powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shap ...more
Paperback, 453 pages
Published 2004 by New York: Three Rivers Press (first published July 1995)
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Keith Cornell Yes, I found it enlightening on issues of race. There are the varieties of ways folks experience race: white/black, brown/black, black man/black…moreYes, I found it enlightening on issues of race. There are the varieties of ways folks experience race: white/black, brown/black, black man/black woman, black American/Caribbean/African, law enforcement/community, and a bunch of other types and some permutations of the aforementioned.
This book hones in on the experiences of a biracial person, raised by his white family, and grew up in places where the conversation on the African-American's place in society wasn't front and center. So he ends up learning a lot about his own race as a young adult. And it's an intense lesson as he comes from way over in Hawaii and Asia to 3 major American cities with deep racial histories of their own (LA, NYC, Chitown). Then the book finishes up in Kenya where they have racial dynamics related to British colonialism.
Obama is a good storyteller. Through his storytelling, I felt all the tension that he was experiencing as he was discovering his identity.
He was very young when he wrote the book and it chronicles his life up until his late 20s. The good in that is that the stories seem fresh; not from a time long long ago. With that youth and freshness, you miss out on some of the wisdom an older author might offer. But I think Obama even acknowledges his youth early in the book. (less)
Shreyasee Pal I am still reading the book and have completed reading the "Origins" portion.
I am really amazed to get an idea of the humble background Obama comes…more
I am still reading the book and have completed reading the "Origins" portion.
I am really amazed to get an idea of the humble background Obama comes from. His inner conflict as a mixed race person is something that a reader will encounter a lot. Being brought up by his white grandparents mostly and also his white mother, its really heartbreaking to feel that till 9 or 10 years of age his black father was just an image in his mind as was woven by his white family. He was mesmerized from the stories of his father but when he met him for the first time he felt his life was better off without him in his life.
The "origins" delves into his childhood of dreams, hopes, confusions, conflicts and curiosities. We come to know of his journey from Hawaii to Indonesia and back to Hawaii and then to Chicago which has been of ups and downs . His conflicts and realizations of being neither a black nor a white and how it affected him in every sphere of his life right from school to college is something that we will encounter throughout.
We come to know that in spite of being a introverted person who chose his friends wisely, he realizes the power of his voice to address the people specially the black community.
All these help us to know what made him very humble,polite ,
philanthropist and lastly, the wonderful orator he is.(less)

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Sarah
Jan 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the undecided
Recommended to Sarah by: Liz
As Super Tuesday approaches and we try to separate empty promises and strategic moves from real, actual thoughts and goals, I couldn’t have read a better book than Dreams From My Father.

Here’s why: even though I didn’t realize it when I picked it up, Obama wrote this book over ten years ago, when he was fresh out of law school and long before he was worrying about what people wanted to hear. It is, I think, a great way to “get to know” the candidate outside of the media, the hype, an
...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Audiobook.....read by Barack Obama
An oldie but goodie:
It was wonderful listening to Obama. He’s so cordial......and.....
....ordinary and extraordinary!

I especially loved when Obama talked about his mother. I laughed when ‘mom’ forced Obama to eat his breakfast each day before school — with Obama rolling his eyes as if it was torture ( I could relate - I did everything I could to get out of eating breakfast as a kid)....... but where my mother just gave up and went back
...more
Michelle
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
With Barack Obama running for president, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at who this candidate was. I had been warned by another friend (not a Obama supporter, I should note) that it was poorly written and its message unclear. This perplexed me a bit since that had been contrary to what it seemed like everyone had been saying.

Well, I, on the other hand, found it a completely absorbing read. It's well-written and an interesting story. I wish everyone could read it; th
...more
Sam
Feb 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
In early 2017, for many people in the U.S. and abroad, Obama nostalgia is real and rampant. I used the moment to look back at Barack Obama before he was president, before he was a US Senator and a state senator for Illinois, and discover the making of the man in his memoir Dreams from My Father. Overall, I'd give this 3.5 stars and round up to 4 stars. I very much enjoyed parts of Obama's journey to adulthood, especially his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia which I found interesting and well-written, and while t ...more
Lorenzo Pilla
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Sean Hannity
Shelves: non-fiction
Forget for a moment who the author has become. This is not a book written by a politician or a would-be president. It's a book that was written by someone who subsequently became those things. For that reason, it's a very honest account of an American coming to terms with who he is and where he's from. As a bonus, Obama happens to be an excellent writer. He has a good sense of how to fashion an interesting narrative, so his personal story is very engaging.

As a normal part of becoming
...more
Diane Wallace
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great read! about understanding and finding out his past upbringing,life and history etc (paperback!)
Diane
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
I listened to this audiobook in the waning days of Obama's presidency. Dreams from My Father is about Obama's family, his childhood, and how he got his start in community organizing in Chicago.

Some of my favorite stories were about Barack's grandparents, his memories of his mother and father, and finally, his visit to Kenya to meet his African relatives. It was interesting to read this memoir, first published in 1995, and to recognize all that Obama has accomplished since writing it.

The a
...more
Christopher
Jan 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 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 ...more
Patricia (theinfophile)
Did Barack Obama write this book himself? Man, it was so full of cliches that I almost threw it against the wall, had it not belonged to the library. The most interesting parts take place out of the U.S. Too much concentration on frustrated-black-man syndrome, trying to find a black community and not enough (for me) on how he fared within this community as mixed. Even though HE chose one ethnicity over another, I want to know how he was treated because other people take notice of a mixture withi ...more
Siria
Jun 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
In the introduction, Obama writes that looking back on this book after the passage of over a decade, he winces at inelegant phrasing, and wishes that he could excise perhaps fifty of its four hundred and fifty pages. That's the kind of self-critique with which this book abounds—honest and very deliberately even-handed. It's a critique I agree with, by the way—Obama has a tendency to go off on slight rhetorical flights which may sound good when delivered in a speech, but which need to be tempered ...more
Shannon
Jul 26, 2008 rated it liked it
What a thought-provoking book! The book is split into three sections (Origins, Chicago and Kenya). I tried splitting up my reading of it in roughly the same manner since it's easier for me to get through a non-fiction book if I intersperse it with fiction.

I think each section left me with a different series of questions. Origins left me thinking about community: its value, how we choose it, are chosen by it, and what it means to be within and without community. Origins also made me p
...more
Manny
Nov 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Even if Obama weren't about to become President, this would be quite a worthwhile book. I wasn't crazy about his style, but he has a lot of interesting things to say, and comes across as a very sympathetic person.
Antigone
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
This is the first of the books written by Barack Obama. He was thirty-three at the time of its publication, a graduate of Harvard Law and practicing in Chicago. Thoughts of a run for the Senate were beginning to coalesce. He was, at this stage, an exacting man. So when he tells us this is a story of race and inheritance, we may be certain it is precisely that.

His is a strong and sometimes stiff accounting of life as the son of an African father and a white American mother - that stra
...more
Luís C.
The first publication of this book dates from 1995, when its author was only 34 years, well before his presidential bid and before his first election as senator from Illinois, which limits the risk of hagiographic publications more recent since the text does not cover the real policy of his life. 34 would be short for an autobiography, but that's not really what this is, especially since the story gives an important place to the reflections of a man in search of his place, and his black identity ...more
J. Kenyarta
Oct 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Okay, so full transparency? As a kid, I hated reading biographies. Like, legit, loathed them! Thankfully, life has changed that, and lately, I find myself gravitating towards them more than ever.

As an author, I’ve learned that sometimes the backstory is JUST AS if not (sometimes) MORE important than what’s happening presently. And as someone who’s always looked up to Barack Obama and read most of his other work, there was no way I would let this golden nugget pass me by, especially a
...more
Mariah Roze
Sep 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was the first book that I ever put in my To-Read folder when I joined Goodreads and now I have finally read it.

This was a great book. I finished it in one day, which is extremely rare for me.

"Obama opens his story in New York, where he hears that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has died in a car accident. The news triggers a chain of memories as Barack retraces his family’s unusual history: the migration of his mother’s family from small-tow
...more
Debbie Zapata
Dec 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sundaze2018
Yet another library sale shelf find, this was originally published in 1995, before Barack Obama became the man he was meant to be.

This is the story of how he became that man: the forces that shaped him over the years, the internal struggles to understand himself and his family and the world around him.

The Chicago chapters did drag a bit for me, but overall the book was wonderful. Next time I go to the library, I want to see which other titles of his are available. I am su
...more
Tasha
Aug 28, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: no
Book was boring. Lots of redundancy, meaning it was the same topic over and over again…I wouldn’t recommend.
Cecily
I started reading this a day after Obama's inauguration. Even though I'm not American, it seemed important to do so, and also I was told that the quality of the writing is at least as impressive and the story.

It was published in 1995, shortly after Obama graduated from Harvard Law School and covers his life, or rather his search for identity up till then, in three main sections: childhood in Hawaii, Indonesia and back in Hawaii; working in Chicago and visiting Kenya to visit his fath
...more
Mikey B.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is quite a remarkable book considering that this individual is now President of the U.S. It was written when he was far removed from the Presidential radar.

It is well written and the narrative is very vivid. The book is divided into three sections with very little inter-connectedness between them.

The first is about his roots and growing up with his mother and grand-parents – in far flung regions of the world – Hawaii and Indonesia. The second is focused on Chicago an
...more
Ravi Prakash
Dec 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Rating- 5/5

It was obvious for me to read this memoir. I saw the book in the local library almost three years ago and right then I had decided that I will read it, but being busy in other works, couldn’t get the time. This year was also slipping, so at last I borrowed and knowing not much about it I posted a picture in the group and just asked , “How’s it?”. And this, “How’s it” stirred a heated political argument. Oh My God! It was so
...more
kxm
Mar 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Americans.
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 lif ...more
Kaylam2012
Nov 10, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one
Recommended to Kaylam2012 by: the school
Have you ever read a book that just made you flat out mad? Well the book “ Dreams of my Father ” by Barack Obama is one those books. This book lacks common sense that ever book should have. It pays so much attention to characters that do not deserve the time of day. Barack makes his life sound unbearable when in reality his life is really easy.

First, I feel that Obama is making too much fuss over whether he is white or black. As an interracial child that I am, I feel that all you sho
...more
Tanima
3.5 stars. It’s difficult for me to rate this memoir because I deeply respect Barack Obama as a person. This comes at a time of deep division in the country and he remains widely appreciated by many yet politically ostracized by some. His legacy has greatly improved the lives of millions of people, but his politics leaves much to be desired. He has undeniably shaped my world views and I have come to regard him as one of the most intelligent men to ever hold that office. Dreams From My Father feels too ...more
Lula
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oxy, autobiography, memoir
The reviews I have perused are about people's feelings about their projections of what Obama means to them. Reviewers are sharing their feelings about the symbolism of Obama, and not reviewing the book. And as a symbol - wow - what a wide variety of feelings from far extremes he represents.

Thirteen years ago I read this out of curiosity. We just weren't sure what he would have to say. At the time it wasn't exactly a bestseller. But it was worth checking out to see if I recognized any
...more
martin eden
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed reading this book. Barack Obama is revealing his doubts, his fears and questions about who he really is. This book is a trip back to his origins to find answers.
My favorite parts were the chapters about his childhood in Hawaii and Indonesia and his trip to Kenya to meet his family. His life was amazing! Neither black, nor white, trying to understand his mother and grandparents... But actually for some people more black than white... And searching for answers in his African orig
...more
Eric
May 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody
Recommended to Eric by: Lotsa peoples
Dreams from My Father

I give this a superlative rating because of its clear statement of what it means to be black in a racialized environment, and because of Obama's ability to confront the complexities of his own biracial/multicultural heritage without succumbing to romanticism or denying any aspect of his heritage. He opts for a black identity for the same reason nearly all black/white biracials do -- a white identity isn't possible when you're his color and being white requires a
...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I knew there was no way I'd ever read this whole thing in print, so I listened to the abridged audio book. It's read by the author, and it felt cozy to sit here right in my own home and have Mr. President tell me all about the first 20-some years of his life. This was written way back when "Barry" was elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. I hadn't known it was that old.

I'm very glad I listened to this. It really helped me understand what shaped the man who b
...more
Shirley Revill
I listened to the audiobook and I must admit I was totally mesmerised with the voice.
You find yourself hanging onto every word that Obama speaks he is so eloquent and profound.
It was because of the quality of the narration that I listened to every word then listened again just to hear that wonderful voice.
It was really interesting hearing about Obama's early life which I had no previous knowledge.
Very well written and narrated story that I highly recommend.
Laurie
Aug 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
Obama is cerebral and a very good writer. He went a lot of interesting places in this book, all worth following.
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Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States of America. He was the first African-American to be elected President of the United States and was the first to be nominated for President by a major U.S. political party. He was the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois from 2005 until he resigned on November 16, 2008, following his election to the Presidency.

Barack Obama is the son
...more
“The worst thing that colonialism did was to cloud our view of our past.” 97 likes
“The study of law can be disappointing at times, a matter of applying narrow rules and arcane procedure to an uncooperative reality; a sort of glorified accounting that serves to regulate the affairs of those who have power--and that all too often seeks to explain, to those who do not, the ultimate wisdom and justness of their condition.

But that's not all the law is. The law is also memory; the law also records a long-running conversation, a nation arguing with its conscience.”
70 likes
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