Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (1995)

I have been reading during the last days the memoir “Dreams from My Father” written by Barack Obama.

This memoir was published in July 1995 when Barack Obama was preparing to launch his political career in a campaign for an Illinois office, five years after being elected in 1990 as the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. It covers the events of his life up until his entry into law school. The book has 442 pages (Canongate edition 2007) and consists of nineteen chapters and a short epilogue.

The book is astonishingly well written (considering that Barack Obama is not a professionell writer).

In his youth years Barack Obama led a fascinating and also sometimes tormented life moving from Hawaii to Indonesia and finally to the United States.

Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas, who had met as students at the University of Hawaii. Obama’s parents separated in 1963 and divorced in 1964, when he was two.

Obama’s father went to Harvard to pursue his Ph.D. in economics, but he didn’t have the money to take his family with him. After that, Obama´s father returned to Kenya. Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father only one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month’s visit. The elder Obama died in a car accident in 1982.

After her divorce, Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, a Javanese surveyor from Indonesia who gained financing for graduate work through the East-West Center and moved in 1967 with her son Barack to Jakarta.

In 1971 Barack Obama returned to Hawaii under the care of his grandparents (and later his mother) for the better educational opportunities available there. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, a private college-preparatory school, where he was one of only six black students at the school. Obama attended Punahou School from the 5th grade until his graduation from high school in 1979.

Upon finishing high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at Occidental College. After two years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia College at Columbia University, in New York City, where he majored in political science.

Upon graduation, he worked for a year in business. He moved to Chicago, where he worked for a non-profit doing community organizing in the Altgeld Gardens housing project on the city’s South Side. Obama recounts the difficulty of the experience, as his program faced resistance from entrenched community leaders and apathy on the part of the established bureaucracy. During this period, Obama first visited Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, which became the center of his spiritual life.

Before attending Harvard Law School (1988-1991), Barack Obama decided to visit relatives in Kenya. He recounts this experience in his book’s final chapters. The short epilogue ends with Barack Obamas wedding with his wife Michelle and a description of their wedding day (October 3, 1992).

The subject of Barack Obamas memoir “Dreams from My Father” has a certain similarity to the subject of the famous novelRoots: The Saga of an American Family” written by Alex Haley and published in 1976.

And in fact Alex Haley´s novel is mentioned on the top of page 302 of the Canongate edition 2007. As a young man Barack Obama was among other things in search of a clearer image of his absent African father and in search of his African roots in general.

But Barack Obama used his memoir also to reflect on his personal experiences with race and race relations in the United States.

Barack Obamas memoir “Dreams from My Father” is entertaining and diverting. I didn´t have to force myself at all reading it. The book is written in an effective and fluent style.

When Barack Obama wrote this book he was at the very beginning of his political career. So this book doesn´t contain much of a specific political program or vision.

This book is about Barack Obamas personal experiences and thoughts as a young and talented African American trying to find a place and a personal mission in American society. It´s a portrait of the future political leader as a young man.

Wikipedia: Africa (Toto song)

Toto: Africa

Africa Lyrics – Toto

Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (1995) Klaus Gauger steht unter einer Creative Commons Namensnennung-NichtKommerziell-KeineBearbeitung 3.0 Unported Lizenz


One thought on “Barack Obama: Dreams from My Father (1995)

  1. This is a great autobiography from the man who is now the President of the Unites States of America. I find it very interesting how at the end of this book, he so hated politicians, that he decided to become one. The rest, as they say, is history.


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