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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance Paperback – August 10, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, Obama was offered a book contract, but the intellectual journey he planned to recount became instead this poignant, probing memoir of an unusual life. Born in 1961 to a white American woman and a black Kenyan student, Obama was reared in Hawaii by his mother and her parents, his father having left for further study and a return home to Africa. So Obama's not-unhappy youth is nevertheless a lonely voyage to racial identity, tensions in school, struggling with black literature?with one month-long visit when he was 10 from his commanding father. After college, Obama became a community organizer in Chicago. He slowly found place and purpose among folks of similar hue but different memory, winning enough small victories to commit himself to the work?he's now a civil rights lawyer there. Before going to law school, he finally visited Kenya; with his father dead, he still confronted obligation and loss, and found wellsprings of love and attachment. Obama leaves some lingering questions?his mother is virtually absent?but still has written a resonant book. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Obama argues with himself on almost every page of this lively autobiographical conversation. He gets you to agree with him, and then he brings in a counternarrative that seems just as convincing. Son of a white American mother and of a black Kenyan father whom he never knew, Obama grew up mainly in Hawaii. After college, he worked for three years as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. Then, finally, he went to Kenya, to find the world of his dead father, his "authentic" self. Will the truth set you free, Obama asks? Or will it disappoint? Both, it seems. His search for himself as a black American is rooted in the particulars of his daily life; it also reads like a wry commentary about all of us. He dismisses stereotypes of the "tragic mulatto" and then shows how much we are all caught between messy contradictions and disparate communities. He discovers that Kenya has 400 different tribes, each of them with stereotypes of the others. Obama is candid about racism and poverty and corruption, in Chicago and in Kenya. Yet he does find community and authenticity, not in any romantic cliche{‚}, but with "honest, decent men and women who have attainable ambitions and the determination to see them through." Hazel Rochman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (August 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400082773
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400082773
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

439 of 538 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 30, 2004
Format: Paperback
U.S. Senate hopeful Barack Obama has an inspiring story to share, and yet he doesn't simply rest on his laurels in this critical evaluation of his life and in his continuing search for himself as a black American. He wrote "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" almost ten years ago, but his stock has obviously surged since his star-making speech at the Democratic National Convention last month, perhaps to the chagrin of Hillary Clinton...unless she is dreaming of a Clinton-Obama ticket in 2008! Growing up mulatto in Hawaii and Indonesia, Obama discusses trying to come to grips with his racial identity through a period of rebellion that included drug use, becoming a community activist in Chicago and traveling to Kenya to understand his father's past. It is in Kenya where he discovers a nation with forty different tribes, each of them saddled with stereotypes of the others. It is also in Kenya where he recognizes the dichotomy that has been his lifelong existence between the graves of his father and his grandfather. His description of this defining moment is worthy of a passage in Alex Haley's "Roots".

Obama is also candid about racism, poverty and corruption in Chicago, and he pulls no punches in his account of this period. Because the book stops in 1995, it does not get into much detail on his learning experiences, culminating in both missteps and triumphs, as a state legislator. For all the value the book provides on Obama's history, I would have appreciated a more substantive update than the preface on the last decade, as he gained political prominence in Illinois, so that we understand more why his time in the spotlight has come at this moment. Perhaps that will be Volume 2.
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374 of 486 people found the following review helpful By Julee Rudolf VINE VOICE on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Barack Obama is obviously an articulate, intelligent man; but his "story of race and inheritance" may leave readers scratching their heads at times. The story of his life, the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman who divorced when he was a young child, is atypical. His father, an extremely book smart man, polygamist, big talker and eventually sometimes embarrassment to the family who was known as the Old Man to his many children, seems an unlikely source of the "dreams" of which the title speaks. The author met his father but once, when he was ten years old. Dr. Barack Obama was already married (p 422) when he met his namesake's mother while studying in the States. He returned to Africa alone, married again (and again) and had more children. His mother then married (and later divorced) an Indonesian man and they moved to Djakarta, where he spent his early years until moving in with his maternal grandparents in Hawaii. He ended up in Chicago, where he signed on to help organize African-Americans to work together to gain funding for projects to improve the quality of their lives and those of their children. Three years and much success (after a bumpy start) later, he headed off to graduate school, but not before finally attending services at a large, popular, local church. Readers may wonder if, during the several page section rounding out Part 2 (Chicago), he may have experienced some sort of spiritual awakening: the signs pointing ambiguously to "maybe," making one wonder why the event was included at all.Read more ›
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154 of 207 people found the following review helpful By Seano on January 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first heard Barack Obama's command of the English language in his address before the Democratic National Convention. His speech brought to mind leaders of the past who had the eloquence and passion to light a fire in people with words alone. When I saw his book, I bought it to read more of his firey, inspirational leadership. What I got instead is an insightful, sometimes painfully honest apprisal of the beginnings of that leader's life, and it surprised me. This book was written when Sen. Obama was just out of Law School. He was offered a publishing deal after being elected the first black President of the Harvard Law Review. What he wrote is a memoir that is very obviously written by a brilliant young man. I say brilliant because his observations and examinations on racial constructs and communications in America is astute and deeply personal. As a bi-racial man growing up in both white and black America, his viewpoint is unique and his eyes were wide open. I say young because unlike most memoirs written after great accomplishments and long careers, the voice of this story is at the beginning of what may be greatness, not the end. Obama gets a chance to look back and examine his formation, and in doing so gives a beautiful and wonderfully full 'state-of-the-union' as regarding race. It's not the same old stuff, and it is. It felt like my favorite college professors who could make you stop in the middle of a class and realize that you just saw something you thought you knew in a whole new light, and you could never see it the old way again.
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