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Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance Paperback – 3 Jun 2007


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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books (3 Jun 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847670911
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847670915
  • Product Dimensions: 13.6 x 3.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 746,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

One of the many refreshing things about Barack Obama is his self-deprecating sense of humour. Responding to the unrealistic expectations for his presidency, Obama said 'I've been sent by my father from the planet Krypton to save the Earth.' Unfortunately, the irony of this self-comparison to Superman was probably lost on many of his dedicated followers, who clearly believe that – once in office – he can exercise a few super powers and rid the world of all its thronging ills, economic and otherwise. But as Dreams from My Father proves, Obama is no fool, and knows the cold realities that face him, even though this intelligently written book is filled with optimism and hope. Which is understandable enough; after all, what else could Obama offer?

The politicians who can actually write may be counted on one hand, but on the evidence here, Barack is among their number (he reminds us that William Faulkner said the past is never dead and buried – it isn’t even past; can you imagine Barack's predecessor in the Oval Office quoting Faulkner – unless the allusion was written for him by one of his speechwriters?). In fact the book -- Obama’s remarkable life story – was, of course, written before his destiny was irrevocably changed by his success in the US presidential election, and it is a striking account of a young man coming to terms with the problem of his identity and issues of belonging in a racially divided country (a racial division that Obama – by the very example of his success – may do a considerable amount towards healing). The son of a black African father and a white American mother, Obama details the dramatic journey that constituted his parents’ life before his own trip to Kenya to confront the sobering realties of his father’s life. It is a book about coming to terms with the past – and comparisons with writers such as Proust in such areas are not as ridiculous as they would be if almost any other politician were involved.

Dreams from My Father gives real hope that ‘dumbing down’ – in order to appeal to the lowest common denominator – will not be the hallmark of the Obama presidency. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

'Because he held to the good and transcended the bad, in Obama's genesis millions of us will find hope.'
-- The Times

'Obama has written a memoir...that evokes the anguish of miscegenation yet culminates in a cry of faith in human community.' -- Sunday Times

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

213 of 229 people found the following review helpful By Sofia on 26 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Forgetting for a moment who wrote this book; this is an engaging, thoughtful, intelligent, perceptive read. This is a real meditation on race and specifically, on what it means to grow up and search for one's racial identity in modern America. And yet, it is beautifully written. Rich in descriptive detail and almost novelistic vignettes, it is also pacey and hard to put down.

Returning to the author, it is truly hard to believe that this was written by a politician (although he wasn't at the time of writing). It is such a good read and provides such a thoughtful and open account of Obama's views and experiences, that it is truly breathtaking in this age of political posturing.

Read this to learn more about Obama. Read this to learn more about the divisions of America. Read this to learn about the black experience both in the US and in Kenya. Read this for the beauty of its writing, but above all, read it, you won't be disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stuart Wishman on 15 Jan 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm always a little sceptical when it comes to reading biographies of political figures unless they are written a long time after their career has ended. The reason is that they might self-censor relevant and juicy facts. Alaister Campbell, a major confidant of the Tony Blair administration, has admitted that his memoirs were censored so as not to affect Tony Blair or the Labour party.

Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama is a surprisingly open and honest account of his life. He discusses how his parents met in a no-name town during a time of great prejudice. He talks about his life as a headstrong young man trying to find his path. He is startlingly candid about his feelings to his father, his desire for a strong bond and the mixed feelings he had towards him. He even talks about drugs, which was very brave considering at the time of writing he was just starting his political career. Obama is clearly an excellent writer as he brilliantly conveys the scenes that he is retelling with his words. If he didn't have such a time-consuming job I would suggest he take up novel writing!

This book is about the American Dream as told through the eyes of one man. It is a story of personal struggle and ambition. With the support and love of his family, Barack Obama opened doors for himself when others told him they were closed. His actions mean that he has inspired the hopes of a demoralised nation, he is living proof that no matter how fanciful, anyone can achieve their dreams.
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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has been written with great literary flair. Every place in which Barack Obama has lived or which he has visited is described with the skill of a great travel-writer; every person, every social setting is graphically and memorably brought to life. His independently-minded maternal grandparents, white folk who had themselves eloped against the wishes of the grandmother's father, had no theory about racial equality but simply assumed it and were shocked when their surroundings did not. Apart from the fact that the grandfather had itchy feet, that may have been one of the reasons why they left Texas and moved to Hawaii, which was more racially tolerant than mainland America. When their daughter married Barack senior, a black Kenyan whom she had met at the University of Hawaii, they accepted him. It was a brief marriage: he left his wife and his brown-skinned two-year-old son, Barack junior, to study in America, and never returned to live with them. Two years later she married an Indonesian (another superb pen-portrait), and when Barack was six years old, they all went off to live in a village on the edge of Djakarta. Barack learnt a lot from his step-father and from life in Indonesia under a savage right-wing dictatorship. He also learnt much from his mother, who counteracted the step-father's fatalistic acceptance of the situation in Indonesia by constantly setting before her son the struggles of the American liberals in the 1960s and 1970s. Her second marriage, too, would end in divorce. She sent Barack back to Hawaii when he was ten, to be educated at a good American school there.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr Ulster on 28 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
Difficult to add any enlightened review of a book read by so many. I enjoyed reading this pre-candidate autobiography, perhaps because of my personal hobby of genealogy. Obama provides insights to his personality, through the story of his own family history, which spans several continents and cultures.

To pick just one episode, as a school-age boy, he met his father for the first time (after some years of separation). Obama was embarrassed by bravado of the Old Man, and just wanted to get along, not stand out, among his childhood peers. Only later did his father's demeanour and behaviour intrigue him to discover more.

Brought forward, Obama recalls a trip that he and his sister Auma made, while in Kenya, to visit their father's youngest child, George:

"From the car, we watched George return to his friends, quickly indistinguishable from the others with round heads and knobby knees who were chasing a scuffed football through the grass. I found myself suddenly remembering then my first meeting with the Old Man, the fear and discomfort that his presence had caused me, forcing me for the first time to consider the mystery of my own life. And I took comfort in the fact that perhaps one day, when he was older, George, too, might want to know who his father had been, and who his brothers and sisters were, and that if he ever came to me I would be there for him, to tell him the story I knew."

Obama could have as easily been talking about his own children. Thus, he comes full circle with his father-son relationship, and is ready for the next generation. Otherwise known as signs of adulthood and maturity.

And that is why I enjoyed Dreams from my Father. Coming-of-age books are good reads, all the better when written with such sincerity. Let us see more of them.
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