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Barack Obama's intimate memoir of his personal life

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The Nation's Privileged Son Seeks His Identity and Calling

  • Apr 26, 2005
  • by
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 he sought out other kids of African American descent, not always fitting in, always trying to find his place. However, Obama came from a family of love--- from both sides. His maternal grandparents bestowed affection and care on him, sacrificing and taking care of him. When he finally met his paternal siblings as an adult, they embraced him as an Obama.

After living in New York after college, Obama found his calling in Chicago in organizing neighborhoods for action and independence. He turned down a well-paying executive position to run a program to roll up his sleeves and go in the trenches working with the poor and disenfranchised. After several years he decided to go to law school, but first he made the trek to the home of his father in Kenya. It was there among his brothers, sisters, cousins, and aunties, he came to know who Barack Obama, the man was. Although his father was dead, Obama learned of the the legacy, pain, hopes, dreams and demons of this man.

I found the many pages devoted to his community organizing at times tedious yet my book club members, some of whom had worked in similar positions, emphasized the importance of these chapters in his life as it has been evidenced with his emergence as a national leader. However, the history and landscape of Kenya was at the heart of this memoir for this reviewer. An extra bonus to this updated version of this book first written in 1995 is Obama's keynote speech at the Democratic convention in July 2004. This is a story worth reading.

Dera Williams
Marcus Book Club (Oakland)
APOOO BookClub

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More Dreams from My Father: A Story... reviews
review by . July 21, 2009
 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 …
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 …
About the reviewer
Dera R Jones Williams ()
Ranked #1055
Dera is a writer, editor, genealogist, writing mentor, researcher, and family historian, and she is active in local literary and national literary circles. She is the keeper of family stories, archivist … 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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