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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance [Library Binding]

Barack Obama
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug 2004
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.

Pictured in lefthand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr. (President Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy). Pictured in righthand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham and Ann Dunham (President Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).

From the Trade Paperback edition.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance + The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
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Product details

  • Library Binding: 457 pages
  • Publisher: Turtleback Books (Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1417666455
  • ISBN-13: 978-1417666454
  • Product Dimensions: 3.3 x 13.3 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (207 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,156,678 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 the Paperback edition.


This may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician - Joe Klien, Time. Extraordinary ... truly moving ... Obama is a born narrator, with a mastery of colour, scene and personality - Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times. --Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
211 of 226 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant - a must for the modern age 26 Mar 2008
By Sofia
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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73 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding read 27 April 2007
I have never before read a politician's memoirs - but then, Barack Obama is no ordinary politician. This is a searingly honest account of the growing up pains of a mixed race, highly intelligent young man, searching for identity and meaning. I thoroughly recommend it - both to people who want to know more about this very inspiring man, and to those who simply want an absorbing read.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In search of identity 8 Sep 2008
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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128 of 142 people found the following review helpful
By Sparks
It is a rare privilege to have such a personal insight into the life and background of a prominent politician. Often it is written about leaders that nobody knows what they are really like as people. But in Barack Obama's case, it is laid out in quite frank detail in this book.
Like most people outside Illinois, I had not heard of Barack Obama until he gave his speech at the Democratic Convention on 27 July (it can be read on his website: [...] and I was fortunate to find the last copy of his book in a Chicago bookshop in August. The opening of the convention speech is a brief outline of the background that formed the book. His father was a Kenyan who went to study in Hawaii, and his mother was living in Hawaii having grown up in Kansas. They parted company soon after Barack was born.
The book is about his childhood and how he adapted to life after his father left his mother. She remarried an Indonesian man, and they went with him to live in Indonesia for some years. Barack returned to the US to finish high school. After graduating, he went to work in Chicago among underprivileged black communities there before deciding to go to law school in Harvard.
Obama's style of writing is extremely personal and analytical of how he dealt with certain issues in his life - his absent father, the colour of his skin, the remarriage of his mother, how he learnt of his father's death, his work in Chicago, his decision to become a lawyer and his rediscovery of his roots in Kenya (including his grandmother, uncles and aunts, and various half-brothers and sisters). Despite having led a very different life in a different part of the world, I was regularly struck by similarities between his life and mine - and can only assume that every reader would have the same reaction.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring...and surprisingly honest! 29 July 2008
What a great read this is.

It is amazing to have such an insight into the man who may soon be President of the USA, arguably still the most powerful position in the world. This book was written even before he became a Senator, I'm sure a lot of what he has written would be edited out if it was published today!

What is so incredible, and I think what makes him seem so personable, is that he comes across as just another ordinary guy. He doesn't come from a famous or affluent background. He talks so openly about the difficulties of growing up as a black man, confused about his origins and what they mean. He grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii... and then worked for very little money as a community organiser. And now he's running for President!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable read and is highly recommended...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Birthday present
Published 10 days ago by Mrs. Wendy Dent
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Received with thanks
Published 14 days ago by Allan Tisdale
5.0 out of 5 stars I lost my previous copy with only a few pages left to read!
So well written that I immediately bought his second book. My fiance is now enjoying the first. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone who is interested in the US government... Read more
Published 2 months ago by David Weinstein-Linder
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful memoir
Read this just before Obama became President. I thought it one of the best memoirs I have read; delicate, insightful, charming. I would have voted for him!
Published 2 months ago by johnh
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insight
Dreams From My Father is the autobiographical account of Barack Obama’s early years from his childhood in Indonesia and Hawaii through to his time as a community organiser in... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Calypso
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
It is one of the best autobiography book I have ever read.
It gives a true picture of a Blackman knowing who he is and not inferior because of his colour. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Emmanuel Owusu
1.0 out of 5 stars disaster
the book is anti-Western ideology that is supposed to mispresent and demonize the West as an evil empire and idealize all aspects of non-Westerners at the same time. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book
I really enjoyed reading this book. Barack writes beautifully. Easy read. I would recommend it. Great buy. Excellent and Excellent.
Published 5 months ago by Mrs. Magdalene M. Ifill
5.0 out of 5 stars Obama's own words!
I never thought he could write a book like this himself.
Do not be afraid, it is not all about politics! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Goethe <3
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Inspiring
I'm not a huge fan of inspirational books but this one spoke to me. Brilliantly written, brutally honest, the best book I read in 2013.
Published 5 months ago by uby_1
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