Dreams From My Father
A Story of Race and InheritanceBook - 2004
From Library Staff
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.
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“... I felt as if my world had been turned on it head; as if I had woken up to find a blue sun in the yellow sky, or heard animals speaking like men. All my life, I had carried a single image of my father ... one that I had later tried to take as my own. The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader – my father was all those things. All those things and more, because except for that one brief visit in Hawaii, he had never been present to foil the image, because I hadn’t seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives: their father’s body shrinking, their father’s best hopes dashed, their father’s face lined with grief and regret. ... that image had suddenly vanished. Replaced by ... what? A bitter drunk? An abusive husband? A defeated, lonely bureaucrat? To think that all my life I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost! ...” (p. 220)
"I'm not black,' Joyce said. 'I'm multiracial.' ... 'Why should I have to choose between them?' she asked me. ... No -- it's black people who always have to make everything racial. They're the ones making me choose. They're the ones who are telling me that I can't be who I am ...'. ... the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn't a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture ...". (p. 99-100)
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This autobiography, published in 1995 when Obama was age 35, is divided into three parts: Part 1: Hawaii - presents his childhood up to entering university; Part 2: Chicago - presents his work life in New York City and Chicago following university graduation; and Part 3: Kenya - describes the first trip to visit his step-family in Kenya (prior to studying law and entering politics). The book lacks both a table of contents and an index. There are no family photographs to complement the text.
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