Customer Review

361 of 467 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What about Mom?, April 16, 2007
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.
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Tracked by 8 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 101 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Nov 18, 2007 3:01:21 PM PST
Julee, while Obama's emphasis on his father may seem odd to you, I (as one who didn't meet my father until I was 55) was obsessed with the mystery of the the man who never showed up in my life. His absence made him larger than life. Also, I wanted to verify what I had heard about him. I am ordering this book today.
Joan

Posted on Jan 31, 2008 1:43:17 PM PST
M. Fiori says:
Fortunately we live in the age of global connectedness and if you live in America, you get to have an opinion about whatever you want. Since Amazon is posting this 'above the fold' I thought it would be worth adding a different perspective, with all due respect to the 'reading' and review that this is a comment on. In the way of fairness, let me say that what you
get in the J. Rudolf review is a nice compact synopsis of one (yes, the main one) of four or five or possibly 300 million stories that this book can (and from my reading of it does) tell.

The way the book reads to me, this overlying story is the framework inside of which a guidebook to empathy is presented. If you go beyond looking and actually see, if
you go beyond hearing and actually listen. Again and again in the book, Obama tells a story and then completes it with a question: How different am I from this person,
what are those differences, why do they exist and is that the only way that things can be? Time and time again, the answer that comes up is the one that you will hear if you actually listen to him speak in public or through this book.

There are many short stories within the book, within which Obama looks at the life of a friend, family member or total stranger and rather than judging that person, their circumstances, the content of their lives, he simply compares one or more of those elements to his own and leaves you the reader with this open ended question. How are we different, how are we similar, what does that mean?

This is not generally, in my experience, what you are being fed in popular media or in what we far too often assume is a fixed culture that we live in. Most of what i see and the way that I have mostly lived my life is to look at others and immediately form a judgement. Put them in a bucket, a box, some sort of random defining container with a label written in red or blue, black or white, good or bad, beautiful, ugly etc. bold faced letters. And there it ends. One minute we are all being told how unique and special we are as individuals. The next moment and quite often simultaneously, you are told that you should look like the latest runway star or act like your favorite movie hero. Sooner or later, there is a box there for each of us. A container within which the world appears, filtered to suit randomly conflicting images that hardly mirror reality.

For many in this society and around the world, this energy consuming nightmare becomes a life long incessant stress feedback mechanism. Ultimately, it makes
people angry, upset, ill in the worst cases and yes, it divides us into random groups within which we can find temporary constantly fleeting apparent solace from the dynamic, flowing, incredible diversity of the world in which we all actually live.

Barack Obama from the way that this reads to me chose a different path. One in which he slowly, over time chipped away at the walls of preconception (as he appears to continue to do every day) and found the commonality between himself and others and among all humans. There are many hints at what he has seen so far in his life and the ( to steal a word from the top rated review here) eloquent way in which he is able to describe many scenes is, to me at least, evidence of his practiced skill at seeing rather than just looking and listening rather than just hearing. A skill that just might come in handy when attempting to understand what 300 million people are really wanting, needing and saying at any given moment.

For me, the book goes far beyond an abbreviated incomplete diary. For me, it reaches out to the level of intelligence that we all possess which allowed us to learn language in the absence of language. It attempts to ask a question that can not be asked in words and can not be answered in words either. Only in action. Only through the choices that we each make every single moment of our lives. How it comes across to you of course is entirely up to you. Please do not believe me, please find out for yourself.

Posted on Feb 15, 2008 4:40:59 PM PST
As Sen. Obama is the product of a white mother and a black father.....and inter-racial marriage......whey does he not refer to himself as bi-racial ? Wouldn't he be the perfect person to begin to end the black / white divide in this country >

Posted on Feb 17, 2008 7:42:40 PM PST
Brendan says:
He did seem to right a bit about his mom still, the end just seemed to focus more on his father. I think most prominently it discusses his own personal journey, and offers a helpful commentary on the dynamics of his biracial identity (and the unique perspective into black and white worlds that offered him). Good question about what the "dreams" from his father were though, i'll have to think on that more...

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 9, 2008 11:00:50 AM PDT
If we never hear or see photo's of the " white" side how can we believe he is truthful about anything ???? All I heard was his white grandma was affraid of black men. Is he so ashamed to speak of his mother and her family ??? Why ? Do not let him make us feel ashamed by voting him into the highest office there is. We need to know more about this man. Take the blinders off and check for answers.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 21, 2008 2:39:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 21, 2008 2:40:59 PM PDT
V. thornton says:
I haven't purchased either of Obama's books yet. So I am reading the comments to get an idea of how interested I might be.

M. Fiori, your comments have said just what I would like to have conveyed to Julee Rudolf. After reading Rudolf's comments (which were informative to the book's subject line) my exclamation to Rudolf's statement that, "its hard not to question his focus on his (absent) father in lieu of his mother", is this. That represents basic point and symbolism; the dreams of what the man...(is, is not) and what it leaves one thinking the absent man to be and an indication of the impact of an absent parent in/on a child's life. As Fiori said so well, "look...see, hear..listen".

The comments below Fiori's are blind sided with the typical American reasoning's to dilute real substance and prospectus.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2008 5:01:53 AM PDT
missaitch says:
Dear Ms. Lambert: For the love of all that's holy, take your own advice! Read the darn book!

Posted on May 6, 2008 9:03:08 AM PDT
R. Buchholz says:
For a book entitled 'Dreams From My Father' I would certainly have expected to see some of those dreams articulated. It does not take too long to find out exactly what 'the old man' wanted for Kenya. All you have to do is look at Zimbabwe and you have his desired results. Even now Barak's cousin Odinga is trying to install a racial-oriented communist state in Kenya.

In reply to an earlier post on May 18, 2008 9:54:12 AM PDT
V. A. Rogers says:
There is no mention here of the first edition ISBN: 081292343X. The 1995 edition with this ISBN was changed some how after the first printing. Was that the ISBN of the edition you are comenting on?

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2008 1:41:19 PM PDT
James Arness says:
I read the review here to see if I could learn if the following statements which are being circulated through e-mail were part of Barack Obama's Book entitled,"

From "Dreams From My Father"
"'I ceased to advertise my mother's race at the age of 12 or 13", I began to suspect that by doing so I was ingratiating myself to whites.'

'I found a solace in nursing a pervasive sense of grievance and animosity against my mothers race.'

'There was something about him that made me wary, a little too sure of himself, maybe. And white.'

'It remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.'

'I never emulate white men and brown men whose fates didn't speak to my own. It was into my father's image, the black man, son of Africa , that I'd packed all the attributes I sought in myself, the attributes of Martin and Malcolm, DuBois and Mandela.'
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