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Dreams from My Father

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s 1995 book, Dreams from My Father, is a memoir about growing up the son of a black African father and caucasian mother, and explores issues of identity, class and race. It also chronicles his early career, and his journey as a young African-American searching to find his place in the world. The book was reprinted in 2004 with a new preface and an annex containing the text of his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote speech. The audio book edition earned Barack the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

Excerpt from Dreams from My Father:

(From the 2004 Preface)

I know, I have seen, the desperation and disorder of the powerless: how it twists the lives of children on the streets of Jakarta or Nairobi in much the same way as it does the lives of children on Chicago’s South Side, how narrow the path is for them between humiliation and untrammeled fury, how easily they slip into violence and despair. I know that the response of the powerful to this disorder — alternating as it does between a dull complacency and, when the disorder spills out of its proscribed confines, a steady, unthinking application of force, of longer prison sentences and more sophisticated military hardware — is inadequate to the task. I know that the hardening of lines, the embrace of fundamentalism and tribe, dooms us all.

And so what was a more interior, intimate effort on my part, to understand this struggle and to find my place in it, has converged with a broader public debate, a debate in which I am professionally engaged, one that will shape our lives and the lives of our children for many years to come.

Reviews on Dreams from My Father:

“Provocative . . . Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither.”
– New York Times Book Review

“Fluidly, calmly, insightfully, Obama guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race.”
– Washington Post Book World

“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.”
– Scott Turrow

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