422 of 515 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Life Story...Somewhat Less Than Complete
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...
Published on August 30, 2004 by Ed Uyeshima
346 of 446 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What about Mom?
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...
Published on April 16, 2007 by Julee Rudolf
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422 of 515 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Life Story...Somewhat Less Than Complete,
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. I was also disappointed he spent so little time writing about his mother and the influence her side of the family has had on him, a narrative gap Obama acknowledges and over which he expresses regret in the preface. Perhaps inclusion of such details would have made for a less compelling story from his originally intended Afro-centric perspective; but at the same time, I think a more balanced look at his own racial dichotomy would have made his story resonate all the more given where he is now.
Obama is open in the preface about using changed names and composite characters to expedite the flow and ensure privacy of those around him, but it does somewhat lessen the impact of his story when one starts to wonder who was real and who was a fictionalized character. Regardless of these literary devices, this book is still a very worthwhile look into the background of someone who is on a major upward trajectory in the current national political scene.
346 of 446 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What about Mom?,
This review is from: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (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. The latter thirty percent of the book covers his first trip to Kenya (his father having already passed away) and his interactions with a convoluted web of relatives: aunts, uncles, cousins, and half and step siblings: the details of which, although unusual, will probably be of no more interest to readers than the tales of their own genealogical connections (a family tree would have been clarifying). Although Dreams From My Father is a good story about a smart, well-intentioned, accomplished man (with complicated family connections) who has lived an interesting life, its hard not to question his focus on his (absent) father in lieu of his mother.
85 of 111 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book is Good, but not what is advertised,
Please, don't get me wrong, I loved this book. Obama's style and matter-of-fact realism is both refreshing and, at times, inspiring. The only reason why this book isn't 4+ stars, is because of the expectations that this book leads the reader to believe.
What I mean is that by reading the summary and back cover, the reader expects to experience a man torn between two cultures and belonging to neither. And while Obama does clearly illustrate his trepidation with associating himself with either culture, from the very beginning we learn that Obama, for all intents and purposes, held his black heritage in a different regard. He was not torn so much as distraught, growing up in a 'white' world unfamiliar with his black background. From reading this book, the reader does not get the sense of Obama'a sturggle with his white roots. The story is rather a search for answers on how to live as a black man in a white world. I believe that Obama missed the chance of opening the doors to a wholely different and misunerstood world of children of differing cultures. In this 'melting pot' that we call America, there is a constant struggle between race and ethnicity and Obama could have set himself up as an educator, a leader of those who had no home. Yet, from the beginning, Obama was at home in his black heritage, but he just was looking for the key.
146 of 193 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Surprise Find,
By A Customer
This review is from: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Kodansha globe) (Paperback)
I highly recommend this book to almost everyone. It should really get more attention!
The writing is thoughtful and interesting, and the subject matter unique. The book follows Barack Obama as he grows up and defines himself and his view of the world, as he finds the community that he wants to count himself a member of. In the end that "community" is really the community of humanity, but this book takes you on Barack's journey.
The author examines his heritage of white, midwesterners on his mother's side and later in the book explores the world of his father, a Kenya of the Luo tribe who came to the U.S. to study. Three parts of the book I found especially well done. First, the evocation of what it was like to be in Barack's head as a young black man with few black role models in his life and the difficult philosophical (internal) conversation of the African-American community defining itself in white America. Second, his work as a community organizer in Chicago really dealt well with the complex problems of declining inner cities. Third, the idealization of his absent father by both himself and his mother and the gradual discovery of the real character of his father and grandfather.
Overall, this book was about his struggle to be true to himself and to figure out what that meant.
148 of 196 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected - but in a good way,
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.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read this in its context,
This review is from: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Hardcover)
This book has received a lot of scrutiny from Obama's detractors since he ran for president. It has also disappointed a lot of his fans.
This was written when Obama was much younger than he is now, so it should be read as a memoir about a reflection on family, race, identity. The book was clearly written by a man who knew he was going to go into politics, so it is not without its agenda. Despite this agenda (which is not overbearing), it still reads more like an honest self-reflection from a man starting to make his mark on the world. The honesty is unparalleled by any biography of an American politician I can think of (please tell me if I'm wrong) and that is very refreshing.
Those looking for any sort of insight into his policy ideas while president can use some inductive reasoning to fill out what ever they want (He's a socialist! He wants to cut taxes! He wants to raise taxes.) This should be avoided because his views since this book have changed on a lot of things. What you can see is how astute his observations are about a wide variety of people gained from his consistent outsider status. Given that he was relatively young when he penned this, one can only assume he has only matured farther.
Problems include some muddled prose when he tries to "out eloquence" himself (a criticism he admits in the preface to a newer addition), a lack of a family tree (it is a book about family), and about a fifty extra pages.
If you read this book for non-political reasons, you will enjoy most of his prose, observations on Americans, and honesty about himself: a young man of unusual origins struggling with an identity and lack of a father figure.) I would recommend reading it like this instead of digging for out-of-context snippets to further your preconceived notions of him (Messiah, drug-abuser, communist, racist, best politician ever, etc.)
45 of 59 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth the read, but slow to start...,
I chose to read this book because I am very interested in Obama as a presidential candidate, and logically wanted to get to know him a little better. His memoir gives a really good picture of his life and has helped me understand where he is coming from in his politics. That said, this book was a little slow to start and a bit hard to get through, partially because he is a bit verbose throughout. The good news is that the excerpt of "The Audacity of Hope" in the back was not in the same vein as this book. So, I'll still read the second book without hesitation.
42 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, but not great........,
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I would have liked the book to delve into his personal life more. It seemed to just skim the surface.Of course,it was written several years ago. He has certainly led an interesting life, but I was left wanting more.
43 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dreams From My Grandfather,
This review is from: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Hardcover)
There were three major parts to Barack Obama's story. His childhood in Hawai and his journey to Kenya were interesting. His work in Chicago as a activist was unimpressive and the narrative dragged and was confusing in this section. His grandparents on his mother's side were the stable force in his childhood and were very accepting of their biracial grandson. Barack's mother seemed to pursue her own interests. His father was not in the picture. The strongest part of Barack's story was his meeting with his African relatives and his reflections on this
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressions of "Dreams from My Father" (Updated),
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This review is from: Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Random House Large Print) (Paperback)
This reviewer decided to read Barack Obama's 1994 revised autobiography "Dreams from My Father" in the fall of 2008 since he was one of the US presidential candidates in 2008. This revised version of the book was released in 2004.
Autobiographies are very useful means to learn from the author's experiences. Autobiographies by authors that were highly successful in their lives, or had a major impact on history, can provide information revealing as many of the valuable lessons the author has learned and recorded for the benefit of the reader. Autobiographies also reveal how authors think.
Overall: the author only believes everything in terms of his liberal dogma beliefs. He is highly critical of blacks that want to just get along and fit into the mainstream. He advocates "social justice", a euphuism for mob justice. He only rationalizes lawless behavior and will not label anything bad except what contradicts his liberal dogma beliefs. He believes that all the black problems are due to the whites.
The cover of the Three Rivers Press paper-back version states that it is: "A Story of Race and Inheritance," and indeed it is. The author presents all of his experiences and acquired knowledge in terms of race and a quest to learn of his Kenyan dad's background. These two issues thoroughly permeate the entire book.
He interprets every experience and thing he knows of in terms of liberal sociological and psychological teachings. It comes through, often seemingly illogically, in his interpretation of every experience and thing he acquires knowledge of on almost every page of the book.
At the end of his Columbia University days, he decided to become a community organizer (or social activist). The author had previously transferred from Occidental college (Oxy) to Columbia University in New York city since most blacks at Oxy wanted to get along with and be successful in the mainstream and were not interested in social activism. He viewed Columbia as being "in heart of a true city, with black neighborhoods in close proximity." Oxy is located near Pasadena, a highly enviable and pristine town near Los Angeles, noted for its prosperity and resistance to crack-pot ideas and politics (from what this reviewer knows of that town). The author describes the Oxy environment as being similar to Hawaii, "The students were friendly, the teachers encouraging," and the author labels any such behaving blacks as "compromise."
While at Oxy, he preferred to associate with: "The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our stereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless
or insecure. We were alienated." And the author appeared to be diligent about being as alien and uncivil in society as he could be with this group of clones of his maternal grandfather.
The harsh and bleak realities of portions of New York City that he stayed in and visited while at Columbia compel the author to cease using drugs and practicing other related dissipations that he indulged in while at Oxy. In other words, he fits very comfortably into the harsh and bleak areas of the NYC environment, but could not tolerate the relatively plush, prosperous, and pristine Pasadena environment. This attitude appears to this reviewer as being a very familiar symptom of firm blessed-be-the-poor type beliefs, whose roots comes from the Roman Catholic Church, which is the mother of socialism (minus the church's assorted deities).
The author has little else to say about his Junior and Senior years at Columbia. The highlight of his stay at Columbia is a visit from his mother and his sister, to check up on him and to show her daughter all the sights to see in the city as well as other locations in the continental US.
After college, he became a research assistant in a consulting house to multinational corporations -- with the intent of staying only long enough to pay off his college expenses. He described himself as "spy
behind enemy lines," still in the mind-set of an hostile alien. He was the envy of the other black employees at that firm and they were proud of him but disparaged of his plans to become a community organizer. After he was promoted to financial writer, he left the company (and it leaves him in excellent financial condition) to pursue his community organizer interests. His initial community organizer work proves to be unprofitable (and leaves him in poor financial condition).
Then he interviewed with a Chicago based community organizer (highlighting that he looked very out-of-shape and unkempt, and was Jewish). The community organizer asked him, "Hmmph."..."You must be angry about something." The author replied: "What do you mean by that?" The community organizer answered: "I don't know what exactly. But something. Don't get me wrong -- anger's a requirement for the job. The only reason anybody decides to become an organizer. Well adjusted people find more relaxing work." So this preferred career choice showed that the author had developed a large measure of anger about race.
His dad (Barack Obama, Sr.) was from Kenya. His dad was resourceful and intelligent enough to get a scholarship to attend college in Hawaii. That is where he met his white mother (Ann Dunham). He digressed to describe her parents (Stanley (family familiar: "Gramps") and Madelyn (family familiar: "Toot") Dunham) and their backgrounds. It is his white grandparents who perform a major portion of the author's upbringing (the cover photographs show that author bears a striking resemblance to his white maternal grandfather - the text makes no mention of this). His white grandfather always preferred the company of blacks as he was something of a wild rebel and simply did not fit into main (white) society. This likely influenced his daughter's decision to marry Barack Obama Sr.. His daughter's marriage only lasted a short while. Barack Obama Sr. Received a scholarship to do graduate work at Harvard, so he just left the author at about age two and his mother in Hawaii with the grandparents and went to Harvard. He turned downed a more generous financial offer from another university in New York city that would have allowed the entire family to go there but he preferred the prestige of Harvard - but with its less generous financial offer. So he went to Harvard by himself.
Meanwhile, Stanley Dunham received a long and harsh letter from Obama Sr.'s severe father (Hussein Onyango) denouncing the marriage and it became apparent to her from the other contents of the letter that Barack Obama Sr. was still legally (or by local tradition) married to his first Kenyan wife and so she divorced him since she did not approve of polygamy. Before the marriage, Barack Obama Sr. had told Ann Dunham that he had separated from his first Kenyan wife that he had been married in a traditional village marriage. The narrative later explains that polygamy is a Kenyan tradition (ditto the rest of sub saharan Africa) and when a Kenyan marriage ends, the children go to the father, if he wants them. African traditions are like laws and are treated as having more authority than civil laws (the book does not discuss this matter but you cannot miss it if you know any Africans or have visited the continent). Hussein Onyango was vehemently opposed to that marriage since he had become very familiar with western culture (he had immersed himself in it when the British showed up in order to learn their ways and to learn how to defeat them) and knew that no white woman would put up with a polygamous African husband. His long and harsh letter to Stanley Dunham effectively torpedoed his daughter's marriage to Barack Obama Sr. once she had read it.
After Harvard, Barack Obama Sr. went back to Kenya with his next American white wife (Ruth, 2 children) while still married to the first Kenyan wife (2 children). He worked for the local Shell oil division and then used his connections to get a government job in the Ministry of Tourism. It lasted until his well known imperious manner got him into trouble with Jomo Kenyatta himself. He had to scrape by on handouts until Kenyatta died and then he got another government job in the Ministry of Finance. Meanwhile, he routinely became drunk so that his third wife Ruth left him after his first DUI car accident that killed the other driver (a white farmer). The author only saw him for a few days while he was living in Hawaii (when his dad came to stay to recover from his first major auto wreck). He then had a young fourth wife (1 child). Later his dad got killed in his final auto wreck.
This missing dad later motivates the author to search out information about him since he was never really raised by him at all and only sent him a number of short general type letters. His dad was spread too thin from one continent to another, one wife and the children by her (not "her children" according to Kenyan tradition), and with other wives and the children by them. Therefore, he ended up not being an effective real-time dad to any of the children he fathered. Only one of the author's male Kenyan relatives realizes that polygamy simply does not work. The author was somewhat shattered by what he found out from his relatives in Kenya about his father.
The author's mother married an Indonesian student (Lolo) after divorcing Barack Obama, Sr. and moved to Indonesia with the author. His step-father fathered his half-sister Maya. The author's step-father took a genuine interest in his development and upbringing, teaching him how to survive and cope in a hazardous, corrupt, and wretched society. This training appears to be the basis of the author's unrivalled political skills. This marriage lasts until the author's mother decided that this husband was too cooperative with that country's corruptive practices to get by (her impractical idealism clashed badly with his practical reality methods) and did not like how the author was being treated in the local schools (since Asians are intolerant of racial differences). The author's step-father tried hard to provide for and shelter his family -- at a level far above the norm for Indonesian society, but the author's mother resented it all since none of this conformed to her ideals of absolute ideological perfection. One can afford to have these ideas, courtesy of a rule-of-law society, such as in the US, whether these impractical ideas work or not, anywhere at all -- but not in a social Darwinist type society, such as Indonesia, where no one can survive on the ideals of absolute ideological perfection. So in the end, ideological incorrectness ended the marriage. The author labels his step father as a compromiser, despite all the survival skills he taught him that he very effectively uses for politics.
On the other hand, the author's mother was, to some degree, justified to object to the corrupt practices present in Indonesian society since that is what make a third world country a third world country. This reviewer has encountered a number of people from the third world who were raised on social Darwinist principles. They always look only after themselves, they will take advantage of you every time you have to work with them, they take credit for your work, they hide information you need - even if you have requested it, they walk all over you, they make you appear to be useless, and in the end - they cause you to be booted out.
The author's mother then took her children back to Hawaii (when the author was about 10 years old) to have their grandparents raise them while she was working on her social work and then divorced Lolo. That's right, her social work was more important than than raising her children. Sound familiar? The Dunhams seem to have been already immersed in the lower end of US self-serving, self-righteous, and all about-me social behavior.
Back in Hawaii, his maternal grandfather's boss used his alumni connections to get the author admitted to Punahou, a private secondary school in Hawaii. The author completed grades 5 to 12 at Punahou. A notable incident there was a white high-school friend's discomfort at an all-black party that made the author feel as if he was regarded as societal alien by all whites and this angered him very intensely. This incident appears to stir up his festering anger about race.
Later, his grandmother insists on being driven to work on a day following an incident where a black man had harassed her at the bus stop. This incident cements his anger about race.
The book even explains how he developed his renown smooth-saying abilities (from pages 94-95 of the Three Rivers Press and Crown Publishers paperback versions):
"...and one day she" (referring to his mother) "had marched into my room, wanting to know the details of Pablo's arrest. I had given her a reassuring smile and patted her hand and told her not to worry, I wouldn't do anything stupid. It was usually an effective tactic, another one of those tricks I had learned: People were satisfied so long as you were courteous and smiled and made no sudden moves. They were more than satisfied, they were relieved -- such a pleasant surprise to find a well-mannered young black man who didn't seem angry all the time."
So there you have the explanation for his smooth-saying: an effective tactic, that uses a courteous demeanor and reassuring smile to trick people into being satisfied with whatever he was saying (while hiding his anger). Moreover, he explains that is also an effective means to deceive (trick) people. No wonder he defeated Senator Clinton in the democrat primary in 2008. She was merely a talented deceit-sayer. On the other hand, her opponent was a much more talented and seasoned smooth-sayer and deceit-sayer. This also explains why he manages the amazing feat of continuing to maintain his associations with radicals of all types while maintaining his popular appeal to the mainstream (it looks like the Lolo taught survival skills).
Those two pages of the revised 1994 autobiography grabbed the reviewer's attention more than any other portion of the book since they explain so very much about this author.
Until about three fourths into the autobiography, he views western religions (but not eastern religions) with some disdain except that he enjoys the singing and music (that is, the entertainment). During his community organizer career period in Chicago, a number of people he was working with advised him to see a very popular minister (a Rev. Jerimiah Wright, Jr.) who was very effective with getting social type work done. So he went to see Jeremiah Wright at the Trinity Baptist Church. The narrative radically changes its character here to portray Jeremiah Wright as a saint. Jeremiah Wright is the only adult male he describes positively and non-critically that he experienced up to 1994 in the book. Rev. Wright explains his background and how he got to be where he then was to the author. He explains that he sampled Islam and activist issues, but in the end, he decided to return to his religious "Christian" origins and obtained a PhD in the history of religion. He explains that the Trinity Baptist Church emphasizes African history and scholarship.
While visiting the Trinity Baptist Church that day, the author picks up a silver brochure entitled ""Black Value System" - that the congregation had adopted in 1979. At the top of the list was a commitment to God, "who will give us the strength to give up prayerful passivism and become Black Christian activists, soldiers for Black freedom and the dignity of all humankind." Then a commitment to the black community and black family, education, the work ethic, discipline, and self-respect." This black religious activism blends more-or-less homogeneously with the authors secular activist ideas and beliefs. The author highlights a portion in the brochure that encourages the pursuit of income but discourages the pursuit of class status. This specific anti-socialist principle explains the sustained growth and success of the church and the success and prosperity of the church's members. Other black activist churches limp along with their socialist baggage but the Trinity Baptist Church long ago dumped this specific socialist baggage it may have had and this apparently caused it to enormously prosper. Ingenious!
Rev. Wright also describes his social work and this impresses the young author since that is what he was focusing his career on. This motivates the young author to follow a suggestion by Rev. Wright to attend one of his sermons in the Trinity Baptist church a short while later. The author has a so-called "religious experience" during the very first service, no doubt boosted by Rev. Wright's inflammatory black activist rhetoric. If you watch any of those sermons on YouTube, you will see Wright's radical inflammatory black activist rhetoric (G-- D--- America!, etc.) and how it puts the Trinity Baptist congregation into a rapturous state of ecstasy and joy. And in one of those videos, he gets the congregation so stirred up and excited, that one of the church officials has to rush up to Wright from behind to merely touch him, as if to reap the benefit of touching a god. Now that's entertainment! - and a incredibly very false religion too!
Before that point, the narrative mostly criticizes the state of the blacks in this country, blames all their problems and pathologies on everything and especially the whites but except themselves, and there is nothing good he does not condemn and nothing bad he does not rationalize and justify to himself. He even witnessed a street shooting (two black punks chasing a third) in Chicago that he has to dive out of the way from, but proceeds to rationalize the shooters deadly conduct once the action has passed. The narrative resumes its prior dogmatic tone after passing by the effusive description of Rev. Jeremiah Wright (who seems to be an idealized version of the author's not-so-ideal father).
Scattered in a few spots in the book, he singles out President Reagan with seething contempt and scathing criticism (pages 133 & 203).
Near the end of his Chicago community organizer days, he decides that politics would be a more effective means to achieve his community organizer related objectives. He then decides to enroll in the Harvard law school, where he was extremely successful.
The author describes several trips to Kenya to visit his dad's relatives in the last portion of the book. His female half-sisters and aunts tried valiantly to describe how the Kenyan traditions oppress them but he could only see their complaints due to the white colonists. Colonialism never erased any of the African traditions in any African country since they are so very intensely institutionalized. This portion of the book is very interesting but the author interprets everything in terms of liberal dogma and this detracts from it.
Later, the author is married by Rev. Jeremiah Wright in the Trinity Baptist Church.
The book shows that once he wins the election, he will surely appoint judges that believe in "social justice" and will rationalize and excuse every imaginable act of lawlessness.
Reading the 1994 autobiography was a thoroughly unpleasant and down-throwing experience. I have never read a book that was as unpleasant as that one. Even "Quotations from Chairman Mao," stuffed with nothing but highly repetitive totalitarian dogma is more uplifting than "Dreams from My Father." The author is obviously very articulate and has excellent powers of recall (he seems to possess a photographic memory) but there is far too much negativism, endless brooding, and bitterness in his thinking. And all that negativism is all written down in "Dreams from My Father." The book more or less provides the foundation that proves that the mixed raced society in the US is a total comprehensive failure.
Well yes, his dad thoroughly abandoned him, his mother often left him with her parents to do her self-fulfilling self-righteous social work overseas, and his liberal grandparents did most of his upbringing. But he grew up mostly in Hawaii, except for a brief time in Indonesia (where he was well provided for), attended mostly private schools in Hawaii (courtesy of the "connections" his maternal grandfather was able to exploit), and graduated from an renown and respected college, and was a successful high achiever at the prestigious Harvard law school. So he was generously provided for, not necessarily by his parents, but by the people left to raise him. This enabled him to capable of becoming highly successful at earning a living. So he had a much more privileged upbringing than most people in the US had but had a similar very faulty upbringing that many others have had in the US. The mixed race upbringing instilled much anger in him and it does not seem that he knows entirely how to live. And the author was the successful winning candidate to become President of the United States. And the news media overwhelmingly cheered him on as if he was the messiah (or 12th mahdi, depending the point of religious reference that applies). And finally, how will all that anger inside come out while he is the US President? The book suggests that in whatever it will be, this anger will come out smooth and sugar coated, but with nothing but terrible consequences inside.
One could argue that his the authors views have changed since the book was revised in 2004 but that wasn't very long ago. The book explains the foundation of the author's opinions and beliefs.
As for rating the book, it is well written and detailed, and provides excellent insights into the author's thinking and experiences (a 5 rating). However, what it reveals is very negative and the book drones on and on throughout with the author preaching his dogmas and all of this makes the book a very unpleasant read, but it was a valuable experience (a 1 to 2 rating). So I gave it an average 3 rating overall. The narrative does not flow chronologically and the account needs to be pieced together as in the manner of solving a puzzle. That is a common literary style and I did not use that for the rating. Anyone that carried out their "civic duty to vote" in November 2008 ar any other time in the future should read or have read this book beforehand no matter how pleasant or unpleasant they may find it to read. It will be a basis for a much more informed experience than all of the useless noise emanating from all of the political campaigns.
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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama (Hardcover - January 9, 2007)