Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (A Story of Race and Inheritance) Paperback – 5 Jun 2008
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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 may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician." (Joe Klein Time)
"A remarkable story, beautifully told." (Robert McCrum Observer)
"Whatever else people expect from a politician, it's not usually a beautifully written personal memoir steeped in honesty. Barack Obama has produced one." (Oona King The Times)
"Obama's writing is characterised throughout by a graceful eloquence, a generosity of perception and spirit rare in young men of many gifts and charisma...here is a testimony for the ages." (Candace Allen Independent)
"It is an almost illicit pleasure to be reading the unspun memories of a man who may yet become president of the US." (Guardian)
"This book is simply justified, whatever its long-term political significance may or may not be, as a rich and rewarding read" (Herald)
"...it is a well-written account of Obama's struggle to establish his own views on identity and race, and all the more entertaining for its honesty." (Elaine Moore Financial Times 2007-11-03)
"[Obama] writes with candour about racism, bigotry and hardship, but always there is a sense of wisdom - you feel you are in the presence of a very mature man . . . You will not fail to be moved by Obama's warmth and humility." (Good Book Guide 2008-05-01)
"With its honesty and cool language, and by virtue of having a story worth telling, the book impresses far more than the typical political memoir." (Colin Waters Sunday Herald 2008-06-01)
"Obama has written a memoir . . . that evokes the anguish of miscegenation yet culminates in a cry of faith in human community . . . Obama is a born narrator, with a mastery of colour, scene and personality, deftly stirring them into the melting pot of a shared American identity. Rarely has that identity found so vivid a portraitist." (Simon Jenkins Sunday Times 2008-06-15)
"Because he held to the good and transcended the bad, in Obama's genesis millions of us will find hope . . . his search to know and forgive his absent Kenyan father holds lessons for us all. Especially in relative terms, his clear prose is refreshing." (Ross Leckie The Times 2008-06-14)
"Worthy of attention in its own right . . . his prose is both vivid and engrossing." (New Nation)
"The only politician's life I have read that made me cry . . . elegant and surprising prose as well as a solid personal statement." (Ian Kelly The Times 2008-07-03)
"It's touching, revealing, brave and generous . . . unprecedentedly well written for any politician." (Evening Standard 2008-06-30)
"Obama is a subtle writer, with an extraordinary breadth of vision." (Margaret Elphinstone Sunday Herald 2008-11-30)
"This memoir displays great intelligence and humility . . . and proves a rewarding read." (Beyond 2008-12-01)
"The book that revealed Barack Obama as not just an ambitious politician but also as an eloquent writer and deep thinker." (Erica Wagner The Times 2009-11-14)
"A touchstone for future politicians." (Philip Womack Daily Telegraph 2009-11-14)
"A memoir recounting Barack Obama's humble political beginnings and search for racial identity that relies on eloquence, rhapsodic prose and powerful, soul-stirring emotion as a crutch. Easily one of the top three Barack Obama memoirs of all time!" (The Onion)
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
This is an interesting book, though certainly Obama's skill as a writer does not match that of his skill as an orator. The book is divided into three sections: "Origins", a look at his younger days; "Chicago", his decision to move to Chicago and work as a community organizer; and "Kenya", about his visit to see his extended family in the country where his father was born. The edition which I read also includes two introductions: one written for the original release of the book; and a second introduction written for the 2004 edition during his run for U.S. Senate. The book closes with a brief epilogue, and an excerpt from his second book "The Audacity of Hope".
"Origins" is an interesting look at some of the aspects of his growing up. This section is focused primarily on race, which is not surprising considering the reason he was asked to write the book. This section also contains key stories about his family, and most importantly his father, but I wish he had spent more time on that part of his life in this book. The section starts with the period prior to his realizing that race was important, and moves through a brief example of his being embarrassed by it, to a longer period of his taking on what is often considered the typical lifestyle of young black men.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An excellent read! What a tragedy that he has not been able to achieve all he wanted to as president.Published 22 days ago by susan hepton
Read with my book club. Very interesting exploration of identity. An honest, surprisingly revealing account of a world famous figure. Read morePublished 2 months ago by MS D K Bagley
Absolutely fantastic book. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this.Published 2 months ago by irrigation woman
This book shows just where Barack Obama gets his humility from.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Extremely well-written autobiography ad difficult to put down. I really enjoyed the detail about his life and feelings growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia, as well as details of... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Imperial Topaz
Motivational read. Bought this because the tenure for Obama is soon coming to an end.Published 4 months ago by Arman Hussain
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