Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It's a Family Affair - Dreams From My Father

I have to say from the outset that I have been fan of Barack Obama, since he first appeared on mine and most other people’s radar during the 2004 Democratic Convention when he made his career enhancing pivotal speech. I cheered him along the 2008 election campaign trail which eventually lead him to the White House. So, when I saw this book, I thought it would be worth a read.

Dreams From My Father is an account of Obama’s search for his own identity as he struggles to understand his position in the world as a black man, coming from a white family. He lives, during his early life in the villages of Indonesia where all the kids look more or less like him, so his place in life isn’t in question at that time. Then his mother, who has ambition for her son, decides he would do much better in life with a good education and so he successfully applies for a place at a private college in Hawaii and is sent to live with his grandparents, so he can attend school. It is during this time that his questions begin to surface and he realises he belongs to a minority. Although his white grandmother and grandfather play pivotal roles in his life, he is driven by an enormous curiosity about his father and his paternal family in Kenya, wondering all the time that if he knew them he would better understand his black heritage and be able to find his place in life. He slowly develops into an angry young man, although he does not reach the heights of anger that some of his friends attain.

Eventually, after learning of his fathers death an opportunity finally arises for him to visit his family in Kenya. The contrast of life there in comparison to his earlier days in Hawaii and then at college in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago, could not have been more distinct. Although he is adored by his mother and grandparents, his father’s family absorb him into their ranks as if by osmosis and this state of kinship is clearly described and obviously enjoyed by Obama. He paints a wonderfully bold portrait of his grandmother, aunties, uncles, half siblings and cousins.

It is an honest account of a child turning into a man who is torn between two worlds and feels that he does not belong entirely to one or the other. He talks about his anger at discrimination against him personally and as he bears witness of it against others’, he recalls smoking pot with his mates and his dabbling in under-age drinking. From a political perspective, I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the clearly racist comments he makes would come back to haunt him in the future. Then I realised that Barack, the man, had played a master stroke by owning the book and the young Obama entirely, racist comments, misspent youth and all, thus, taking any potential ammunition out of the rifles of any future opponents. Smart, smart man!

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Speaking of family - my mother-in-law is visiting and we are off to see our local waterfall today. I'll post some more photos tomorrow, but here is one from last week.


  1. Paul got me the second book for christmas but when I started reading it I thought stop! I need to read the first book first so no! not read it but thanks for reminding me to buy it!
    By the way when looking up the beads I need online to finish the dreamcatcher cross stitch I found this which actually gives the story behind the design which you may or may not have known about when you bought it!! Been to Hobbycraft today +got the beads and some wool ! well it was reduced and will make lovely cardi for Lu! Love to you Steve+ Mum xxx

  2. ps. sorry its not dreamcatcher but earthdancer of course xx

  3. Stay away from Hobbycraft!!!
    Will take a look at the story about the stitch pattern. All is well, mum doing fine and relaxing - it is quiet here so she has had lots of time to read. Off to Discovery Bay today - will post photos later. LOL xx