Book Review: Dreams From My Father


This is a book review of Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

Prologue: If I was an American citizen, I would be an independent voter. I have no party loyalties and will vote based on the individual candidate that I best connect with. For the 2008 US Presidential election, that candidate was Hillary Clinton. I noticed Barack Obama but figured he was the token black candidate that the Democratic party always had. When Hillary stretched the truth with the "sniper fire" comment, my enthusiasm for her dimmed but I was still Team Hillary. When she eventually dropped
out the race, I switched to John McCain - until he insulted my intelligence as a woman but touting Sarah Palin as the answer to female voters who mourned the loss of a Hillary presidency. That's when I became a Barack Obama supporter and the more I listened to him, the more I was impressed by his depth of intelligence. 

As I've watched the ugliness of American racial problems become more brazen in response to a black man becoming president, I wonder what Obama is thinking about all this. 

  • Did he expect it to be so bad? 
  • Did he have any conceptualization of how deep the disdain for the brown skin ran in certain parts of white America? 
  • What made him such an idealist? 
  • What shaped his seemingly unflappable demeanor? 
  • Is he the compassionate human being he says he is or is he just an astute politician?

Reading Dreams From My Father was a way for me to answer some of those questions and I did.



This book is an autobiographical account of Barack Obama's first 25 years and it left me amazed at how the universe came together to pour experiences into this man that no other American president can boast of. His knowledge of commonality and poverty was not gleaned from the pages of Times magazine or a helicopter flight over some poor shanty city. He lived and walked the path of ordinary struggling people on the streets of Indonesia, Kenya and America. He got a front row seat of how the power wielded by politicians affects the lives of everyday people. He saw the strengths of the men in his life and how ultimately their weaknesses were the death kneel to their dreams.

I saw how sensitive children going though cultural experiences that they think their parents will not understand can seek to shield their parents from the emotions they are battling like Barack tried to shield his white mother and grandparents from the struggles he faced in their world due to his skin color. As a Nigerian mother raising my kids in Canada, I know that my kids' experiences growing up will not be like mine and I may struggle to understand the issues of race they face. From reading this book, I know that the onus is on me to try and "get it" so that my kids don't have to hide their emotions from me.

Conclusion: There's a lot to this book. It showed me what made the man tick and that sometimes, the choices we make about life's principals should not be centered on what race or tribe we belong to. Instead, it should be about the common good. I feel humbled that Barack Obama penned a bit of literature that shed some light on why he holds on to certain principles. I can't wait to read the next book he'll write about how being President of the most powerful country in the world reshaped (or not) his idealism.

Favorite Quotes
Because I listened to the audiobook over the span of 6+ hours, I didn't get a chance to take notes. 

Bonus
He reads the audiobook himself and his delivery was witty and non-droning.

Homework
Out of all the biographies of black heroes that he read, Barack Obama was most influenced by that of Malcolm X so I'll be adding that to my read-next list

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