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dreams from my father

August 2, 2009

Way back when, early on in the 2008 election (which probably must have been something like 2006), a phone conversation with my mom meandered into politics, and she told me I had to read Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father. At the time I was doing my best to buck the tide of history, supporting the totally uncool Hillary Clinton. And I sort of bristled at the suggestion, because it sounded like my squandered youth was being unfairly compared to Barack’s well-spent early days of soul-searching, community service and leadership. As in, perhaps I could take a few hints from this fine, upstanding man.

Well, perhaps I could. As noted on the cover, one of the primary themes of this book is race. Barack’s insights into the issue of race in America have been well-documented and praised, and I won’t go into that here, in part because I found some of the other themes more interesting: the search for identity, the significance of family and the broken American society. The first two I could relate to on a very personal level as someone who grew up as an Army brat, with extended family scattered across the US. It struck me, as Barack describes his voyage to Africa, that black Americans are not alone in being cut off from their heritage. Most American families would be unable to trace their roots back to a country – let alone a town – of origin. And though Barack does not state it explicitly, it is this sense of displacement that contributes to the fragmentation of our own culture. He tends to romanticize the pastoral scenario in which people were connected to the community in tangible ways through their work and thus understood their place in it.

It’s a pretty rich book, dense with nuggets of ideas and an accurate portrayal of not just a man, but a country and its people.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 3, 2009 12:57 am

    I was also very impressed with Obama’s writing style and ability to sustain the narrative. I was also struck by how he became driven after finding his identity. He also lived an interesting life. In comparison “The Audacity of Hope” is much less personal and mostly reads like a policy statement. His memoir when he finishes as president has the potential to be very nuanced and readable, but I doubt he’ll be so forthcoming

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