Autobiographies/Biographies Book Reviews

Dreams from my father- Barack Obama

I took some time in writing this review in fear that I would not be able to express fully and deeply how I felt about this book. I was afraid that in describing my opinion it would just be viewed as something someone else had already said about it or if I was to voice any unpopular less than praise opinion it would be received with disdain. Nevertheless, as with all task that I take on in life, I attacked this head on-no grey areas. It was on one of my visits back home to ST. Mary, Jamaica that I discovered this gem among my Aunt Sandra’s Books, Of course later discovered it belonged to my aunt Jennifer after I posted my current read on Facebook, but, I digress. The most loved President is also a huge hit in Jamaica and we love him as much as we love our aunty Celine Dion. I was excited to learn more about this charismatic enigma and, I was not disappointed.

In Dreams from my father, Obama shared with us his early life- pre-president, the story of his father Barack Obama Snr and his inheritance through a vividly descriptive trip to Kenya “reclaiming” his inheritance. The story of his father began at what seemed to be the end, Barack received a phone call when he was in New York that his father had died. This led him down the road to a series of stories- his origins. He backtracked to Kansas telling us about his Mother’s family, his beloved grandmother and her husband. Why and how they move to Hawaii where he was born and grew up before moving to Indonesia with his Mother’s second husband. He describes Indonesia and life lessons learned there, moving back to Hawaii where he spends the rest of his life as a child. and to their move to Hawaii where he was born. The story continued with right before law school and before his visit to Kenya, Barack went to Chicago and worked as a community organizer.

Barack (Barry as he affectionately called) had met his father once, everything else that is known about him was through the stories his mother, grandmother and grandfather told him. This larger than life charismatic enigma. A dream, a thought and in instances an idol. It was not until Obama visited Kenya with his sister, sitting down with his aunts, his father’s other wife, and other relatives that the enigma of his father unraveled. A man who left a wife and two children to go to an American University, the family savior, his father, the learned politician, the wanderer and father of many children. The man had many flaws and many redeeming qualities. He loved to dance and could make anyone fall in love with him by just his very presence. This was the man that Barack came to know on that trip to Kenya.

The writing is matter-a-fact and unsentimental. At some point, it’s as if you a reading a story by someone who is separate and apart from the story. Maybe that’s the feeling that Obama wanted to create. He wanted the reader to feel just as he does, an outsider. This is a book I had to power through on many occasions. I wouldn’t say it got boring, more as information overload especially the chapters highlighting his community work in Chicago. This portion is not to be skipped over though as it will be important to be able to draw the parallels from his time there as against some of the events which happened in Kenya. Moreover, it was in Chicago that he first met his eldest brother who is an important character highlighting the theme of family which is woven throughout.

I would recommend this book if you are a big Obama fan or if you love autobiographies. There is a lot more meat here than you would find on Wikipedia however if you are looking for feelings and sentiments don’t waste your time.