Dreams From My Father
A Story of Race and InheritancePaperback - 2004
In this iconic memoir of his early days, Barack Obama "guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race" ( The Washington Post Book World ).
"Quite extraordinary."--Toni Morrison
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father--a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man--has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey--first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother's family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father's life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
Praise for Dreams from My Father
"Beautifully crafted . . . moving and candid . . . This book belongs on the shelf beside works like James McBride's The Color of Water and Gregory Howard Williams's Life on the Color Line as a tale of living astride America's racial categories." --Scott Turow
"Provocative . . . Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither." -- The New York Times Book Review
"Obama's writing is incisive yet forgiving. This is a book worth savoring." --Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here
"One of the most powerful books of self-discovery I've ever read, all the more so for its illuminating insights into the problems not only of race, class, and color, but of culture and ethnicity. It is also beautifully written, skillfully layered, and paced like a good novel." --Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author of In My Place
" Dreams from My Father is an exquisite, sensitive study of this wonderful young author's journey into adulthood, his search for community and his place in it, his quest for an understanding of his roots, and his discovery of the poetry of human life. Perceptive and wise, this book will tell you something about yourself whether you are black or white." --Marian Wright Edelman
From the critics
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“... I felt as if my world had been turned on it head; as if I had woken up to find a blue sun in the yellow sky, or heard animals speaking like men. All my life, I had carried a single image of my father ... one that I had later tried to take as my own. The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader – my father was all those things. All those things and more, because except for that one brief visit in Hawaii, he had never been present to foil the image, because I hadn’t seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives: their father’s body shrinking, their father’s best hopes dashed, their father’s face lined with grief and regret. ... that image had suddenly vanished. Replaced by ... what? A bitter drunk? An abusive husband? A defeated, lonely bureaucrat? To think that all my life I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost! ...” (p. 220)
"I'm not black,' Joyce said. 'I'm multiracial.' ... 'Why should I have to choose between them?' she asked me. ... No -- it's black people who always have to make everything racial. They're the ones making me choose. They're the ones who are telling me that I can't be who I am ...'. ... the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn't a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture ...". (p. 99-100)
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This autobiography, published in 1995 when Obama was age 35, is divided into three parts: Part 1: Hawaii - presents his childhood up to entering university; Part 2: Chicago - presents his work life in New York City and Chicago following university graduation; and Part 3: Kenya - describes the first trip to visit his step-family in Kenya (prior to studying law and entering politics). The book lacks both a table of contents and an index. There are no family photographs to complement the text.
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