Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Review)

Book cover for "Dreams From My Father" by Barack Obama.Title: Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance

Author: Barack Obama

Publication Year: 2005 (originally published 1995)

Pages: 464

Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir

Source: Audiobook borrowed from the Toronto Public Library system via Overdrive (narrated by Barack Obama)

From the cover:

Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this lyrical, unsentimental, and powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother – a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego. Obama opens his story in New York, where he hears that his father – a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man – has died in a car accident. The news triggers a chain of memories as Barack retraces his family’s unusual history: the migration of his mother’s family from small-town Kansas to the Hawaiian islands; the love that develops between his mother and a promising young Kenyan student, a love nurtured by youthful innocence and the integrationist spirit of the early sixties; his father’s departure from Hawaii when Barack was two, as the realities of race and power reassert themselves; and Barack’s own awakening to the fears and doubts that exist not just between the larger black and white worlds but within himself.

It should be said out front that I accidentally ended up reading/listening to the abridged version of Dreams From My Father, because I didn’t realize that’s what it was. It’s the only audio version, though, so I stuck with it.

In case you didn’t already know, I’m a total Obama fangirl. I absolutely adore him. Yes, I know, not all Americans (and others) adore him, but I’m Canadian and I’m a super-liberal, and I love almost everything he stands for. The follow-through, not necessarily so much, but the ideals … definitely.

With that in mind, I’m somewhat surprised that I haven’t gotten around to reading either of his books until now. When I saw the audiobook pop up as one of the options during a search of the Overdrive system (which lends audiobooks and e-books for the Toronto Public Library), I definitely had to go for it. I needed a new audiobook to read, and this sounded like just the thing.

That it definitely was. From the first sentence that came out of Obama’s mouth, I was hooked. His story just flowed, from beginning to end, starting with an introduction that had been added to the newer editions, explaining the context within which Dreams From My Father was originally published, and ending with an emotional scene with his family in Kenya. Most of the content of the book is based on anecdotes from a variety of moments in his life, something that made this highly original as a political memoir, and even more endearing to his fans.

The personal approach to this memoir, and the candid attitude that he displays when talking about his childhood – and later – experiences with family, friends, school, and the issues of racial identity, is what endears Obama to the reader. I’m not sure that I would have liked this book quite as much if I was reading it; there was just something about hearing the stories in his own voice that made it feel as if I was sitting down having a conversation with him. While hearing Obama “doing accents” and saying the occasional bad word was somewhat startling, it also contributed to the feeling of the experience, drawing you in and wanting to hear more.

I was sad when it ended, only because I wanted it to keep going. I’ll definitely be picking up The Audacity of Hope sometime soon – also in audiobook format.


6 thoughts on “Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (Review)”

  1. I didn’t care for Dreams of My Father. I thought it was difficult to get into, but I loved The Audacity of Hope. If you love everything Obama stands for, you will really be inspired by The Audacity of Hope. The audio version of that is abridged too though.

    1. Did you read the dead tree version, or listen to the audio version?

      I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed The Audacity of Hope. He used that phrase a few times in Dreams From My Father, and I’m definitely looking forward to getting into it soon.

  2. I have this book on my TBR pile and have been wanting to read it for a while now! I too am a huge fan of Obama!! Can’t wait to see what I think!

    1. It’ll be nice to hear what you think, too! I’m sort of an outsider looking in, being from Canada. We get to see all the good stuff but not be quite as swayed by the “bad stuff” as people who live in the States.

      1. Very good point!! BUT, I may still be a bit biased in my opinions being a huge supporter of Obama! Not everyone is, particularly in my current neck of the woods! 🙂

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