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Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (A Story of Race and Inheritance) Paperback – 5 Jun 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 263 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (5 Jun. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847670946
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847670946
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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 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 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)

" 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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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
Long before he was a candidate to be President of the United States, or even a candidate for the state legislature, Barack Obama wrote "Dreams from My Father". He had been elected as the first African-American president of the "Harvard Law Review", and if that had been the end of his public career, this book would have long been out of print. But, with Obama running for the U.S. Senate, it was reprinted, and now his Presidential run has undoubtedly increased the interest in this work.

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.
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By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 8 Sept. 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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