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Barack Obama's intimate memoir of his personal life

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Fascinating Account

  • Jul 21, 2009
  • by
 Barack Obama's auobiography, which starts at birth and ends before he enters law school, reads like a good novel and is filled with interesting characters.



  • There's "Gramps," the white grandfather who tells Hawaiian tourists that the young Barack is the descendent of a king.
  • There's "Toot," the white grandmother who lets Barack watch the last five minutes of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," despite dire warnings from his dad.
  • There's Barack's mother who, when they're living in Indonesia, gets Barack up at 4 am to study American correspondence courses.  Her favorite film is "Black Orpheus," which she saw at age 16.  Barack speculates that the film has something to do with her marrying a black man.
  • There's Obama's father, also named Barack (which means "Blessing"), who sees Obama for one month when Obama is 10. He's recovering from a drunken auto accident. Though Barack Jr. doesn't learn this until adulthood, Barack Sr. started going downhill after an opposition government demoted him, cancelled his passport and basically prevented any decent company from hiring him. This despite an illustrious career as a businessman and government official.



When Barack Sr. speaks at his son's elementary school, which "Barry" Obama dreads, the whole class is impressed. Like Barack Jr., he is eloquent and Harvard-trained.


As an undergraduate, Barry discovers he has the same gift. He transfers from Occidental College in Los Angeles (the same school Jack Kemp attended) to Columbia in New York before going to law school at Harvard.


The book is divided into three sections: growing up, community organizing and Kenya. Though the first section is the most intriguing, we learn a lot from his community organizing phase. In trying for two years to improve the Altgeld Gardens housing project, one of  Obama's chief volunteers quits. It's easier to save money and move away than effect any real change. Another volunteer reminisces about the days gone by  when families felt safer, children listened to adults, and amusements included things like collecting berries and making go-carts. One wonders why Obama doesn't extrapolate from this and see how the welfare state has ruined so many blacks' lives. But perhaps he does.


Despite the title, Obama feels no pain when his father dies, only "missed opportunity." So many questions he could have asked, so many ways he could have gotten to know him. Perhaps  the book is called "Dreams From My Father" because the only things Barack Sr. has given him are dreams. 

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July 21, 2009
Perhaps  the book is called "Dreams From My Father" because the only things Barack Sr. has given him are dreams.

Wow, what a touching revelation.  Those are some nice anecdotal details that I didn't know about Barack Obama.  Thanks for the review!  I should pick up this book :)
July 21, 2009
It is an interesting title, given what you've just described. There has been so much discussion about this book and I have yet to read it. It's on my to-read list. I'm interested in learning more about his mother and her influences on him as well. @Madrews33 just wrote a review about the artist (Shepard Fairey) who created the Obama Hope Posters, thought would might be interested:)
More Dreams from My Father: A Story... reviews
review by . June 04, 2009
I will admit that I hadn't heard of the author until his big speech and have obviously followed his career thus far. He is a wonderful speaker and make people want to listen to him. Gorgeous and amazing. I wasn't sure what to expect from his writing, but I was hoping it would be good.    This far surpassed my hopes. His writing is gorgeous, it has a certain flow to it that makes you want to slow down and really follow what he is saying and why. And his story is one worthy of …
review by . November 15, 2008
I am impressed by Obama's ability to analyze himself. In "Dreams from my Father," he readily points out his adolescent flaws, frustrations, and misunderstandings in a way no sitting politician ever could. Historians should be very grateful that he wrote this before he ran for elected office. I cannot think of another memoir by a politician that seemed so unfiltered and human.    By the way, Obama is a beautiful writer. His sentences are smooth and at times lyrical. I look forward …
review by . June 29, 2008
...which I read before anyone began to take Obama's chances of being nominated for president seriously. Still, it had the tenor of a campaign biography -- careful, modest, strategic, and yes, evasive at times. The most any campaign biography ever provides is a sense of the subject's priorities; in other words, you won't find many clues to Obama's specific positions on world issues in the account of his childhood. You will, however, get a feeling of the man, and you will discover an American who …
review by . May 22, 2008
Barack Obama must be the only person on the planet with a background like this: son of a free-spirited young woman who married a black student from Kenya while living in Hawaii with her parents, her father a World War II veteran seeking his fortune as a salesman and her mother a career woman who did not want to be called "Grandma." The family had come to Hawaii because Gramps (he didn't mind being called that) asked for a transfer when he learned the furniture company he worked for was opening a …
review by . April 26, 2005
Told from his earliest remembrance to his entrance to law school, Illinois Senator Barack Obama chronicles his coming-of-age story in Dreams of My Father. He lived under the shadow of a man for whom he was named but did not know; a man bigger than life and a man he did not meet until he was ten years old.    That "Barry" struggled with his identity was no small wonder. He was the product of white mother and an African father living with white grandparents in Hawaii. As a teen …
About the reviewer
Joy Schwabach ()
Ranked #484
I write the syndicated newspaper column "On Computers' with my husband, Bob Schwabach.  See oncomp.com for more.
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About this book


Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance is a memoir by President of the United States Barack Obama. It was first published in 1995 after Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, but before his political career began. The book was re-released in 2004 following Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC); the 2004 edition includes a new introduction by Obama, then a Senator-elect, as well as his DNC keynote address.

The autobiographical narrative tells the story of the life of Obama up to his entry in Harvard Law School. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas, both students at that time at the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and divorced in 1964. Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father only one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month's visit. The elder Obama died in a car accident in 1982.

After her divorce, Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an East-West Center student from Indonesia. The family moved to Jakarta. When Obama was ten, he returned to Hawaii under the care of his grandparents (and later his mother) for the better educational opportunities available there. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, a private college-preparatory school. ...

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ISBN-10: 1400082773
ISBN-13: 978-1400082773
Author: Barack Obama
Genre: Non-fiction, Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Date Published: August 10, 2004
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