Rating: 3/4 (A memorable personal journey through Obama’s life that needs better editing)
For the longest time, I have been wanting to read the two books written by Barack Obama. This happened after I was impressed by this US Presidential candidate, and wanted to find out more about his personal life and history. Dreams From My Father is his first book that is semi-autobiographical and does not disappoint at all.
Written and published way back in 1995, Dreams From My Father is a search by Obama for his identity. He was born to a Kenyan dad and White American mother from Hawaii. While his father from Kenya would strongly influence Obama’s search for himself later in life, the marriage itself was brief. His mother later married an Indonesian and they moved to live in that Islamic Asian country. Obama spent a few years growing up in Indonesia, immersed in Asian culture, language and food, witnessing corruption, violence and poverty. His mom later sent him back to Hawaii to live and study with his grandparents. Finishing school, he moved to mainland for college. Though of mixed race, he looked Black and his college years were filled with a search for his Black identity and flings with smoking and drugs. After graduation, Obama decided to become a community worker in the Black neighbourhoods of Chicago. He spent many years here, but had mixed success in realizing his aims. This is when he applied to study law at Harvard. He got an admit, but decided to take a journey to Kenya before that. This long African journey, full of personal adventures is when he discovered all of his dad’s relatives. He also learned about his tribe, his inheritance, his family history and finally found closure.
Dreams From My Father is interesting because the author opens himself up completely, but also because he is now the most powerful man on Earth. As Obama himself admits in a new preface to the book, it needs some drastic editing. While his time in Indonesia, Hawaii and Africa are page turners, the books gets unnecessarily detailed and boring with his Chicago years. Readers who survive through this and finish the book will not be disappointed. Obama’s journey through Kenya is especially scorching. It is also endearing to discover that the current US president has experienced other religions like Islam and Hinduism, has lived with Asians and immigrants, has done all kinds of drugs, has eaten with bare hands regularly on two continents and loves chapatis and samosas! These and many other life experiences of Obama make Dreams From My Father quite a memorable read. Excerpts from the book which I loved are shared here. I would love to read his next book The Audacity of Hope.
PS: If the cover piqued your interest, on the left of Obama is his grandmother holding his dad on her lap and on the right is his grandfather holding his mom. 🙂