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Dreams from My Father
Cover of Dreams from My Father
Dreams from My Father
A Story of Race and Inheritance
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New...
In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New...
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  • In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey—first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother's family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father's life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.
    Pictured in lefthand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr. (President Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy). Pictured in righthand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham and Ann Dunham (President Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Preface to the 2004 Edition

    Almost a decade has passed since this book was first published. As I mention in the original introduction, the opportunity to write the book came while I was in law school, the result of my election as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. In the wake of some modest publicity, I received an advance from a publisher and went to work with the belief that the story of my family, and my efforts to understand that story, might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the American experience, as well as the fluid state of identity -- the leaps through time, the collision of cultures -- that mark our modern life.

    Like most first-time authors, I was filled with hope and despair upon the book's publication -- hope that the book might succeed beyond my youthful dreams, despair that I had failed to say anything worth saying. The reality fell somewhere in between. The reviews were mildly favorable. People actually showed up at the readings my publisher arranged. The sales were underwhelming. And, after a few months, I went on with the business of my life, certain that my career as an author would be short-lived, but glad to have survived the process with my dignity more or less intact.

    I had little time for reflection over the next ten years. I ran a voter registration project in the 1992 election cycle, began a civil rights practice, and started teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago. My wife and I bought a house, were blessed with two gorgeous, healthy, and mischievous daughters, and struggled to pay the bills. When a seat in the state legislature opened up in 1996, some friends persuaded me to run for the office, and I won. I had been warned, before taking office, that state politics lacks the glamour of its Washington counterpart; one labors largely in obscurity, mostly on topics that mean a great deal to some but that the average man or woman on the street can safely ignore (the regulation of mobile homes, say, or the tax consequences of farm equipment depreciation). Nonetheless, I found the work satisfying, mostly because the scale of state politics allows for concrete results -- an expansion of health insurance for poor children, or a reform of laws that send innocent men to death row -- within a meaningful time frame. And too, because within the capitol building of a big, industrial state, one sees every day the face of a nation in constant conversation: inner-city mothers and corn and bean farmers, immigrant day laborers alongside suburban investment bankers -- all jostling to be heard, all ready to tell their stories.

    A few months ago, I won the Democratic nomination for a seat as the U.S. senator from Illinois. It was a difficult race, in a crowded field of well-funded, skilled, and prominent candidates; without organizational backing or personal wealth, a black man with a funny name, I was considered a long shot. And so, when I won a majority of the votes in the Democratic primary, winning in white areas as well as black, in the suburbs as well as Chicago, the reaction that followed echoed the response to my election to the Law Review. Mainstream commentators expressed surprise and genuine hope that my victory signaled a broader change in our racial politics. Within the black community, there was a sense of pride regarding my accomplishment, a pride mingled with frustration that fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education and forty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we should still be celebrating the possibility (and only the possibility, for I have a tough general election coming up) that I might be the sole...

About the Author-

  • Barack Obama is the junior U.S. senator from Illinois. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Michelle, and two daughters.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Barack Obama, a black man raised by his white mother and grandparents, decided to journey to Kenya to learn more about his African father after receiving news of his death. This memoir is not about his father's life, but about Obama's, and he brings that home with an intimate tone rather than that of his public speeches. (His 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address is included at the end.) Throughout the book, the U.S. Senator looks at race from the point of view of someone who has seen and been part of a variety of cultures, and he explains how his perspective shaped his views. The book, written in 1995, before his election to the Illinois Senate, gives listeners a chance to learn more about a young senatorU.S. who has recently made news by speaking out on the Patriot Act and President Bush's next Supreme Court nomination. J.A.S. 2006 Spoken Word Grammy Award Winner (c) AudioFile 2005, Portland, Maine
  • New York Times Book Review "Provocative . . . Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither."
  • Washington Post Book World "Fluidly, calmly, insightfully, Obama guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race."
  • Scott Turow "Beautifully crafted . . . moving and candid . . . this book belongs on the shelf beside works like James McBride's The Color of Water and Gregory Howard Williams's Life on the Color Line as a tale of living astride America's racial categories."
  • Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here "Obama's writing is incisive yet forgiving. This is a book worth savoring."

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    Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
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