Book Review: Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

February 20, 2019

Dreams from My Father

A Story of Race and Inheritance
Narrated by: Barack Obama
Length: 7 hrs and 8 mins
    
 4.5 out of 5 stars
 

Publisher's Summary

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.
©1995, 2004 Barack Obama (P)2005 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

  • Grammy Award Winner, Best Spoken Word Album, 2005

"Provocative....Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither." (The 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)

 
 

Initial Thoughts:

 

The past few years I've listened to a lot of non-fiction. This story, in particular, interested me as I'm going to write my own non-fiction book on my dad (though not in the way you'd suspect) but this isn't about me. I thought Obama was an excellent President and this book good good reviews, so as is my usual practice I slowly listened to it over the past few months.

 

Main Points:

It's always a pleasure to listen to a book read by the author, especially when it's non-fiction. It has a great personal touch hearing someone's own thoughts on their life. Obama has a great speaking voice and I was immediately drawn into this book.

He had a tough childhood, living with his mom and stepdad in a foreign country, then moving back to the states to live with his grandparents, always feeling like he didn't belong and not having much of a relationship with his real father. Also, like many of us, he struggles to decide what to do with his life, faith and what kind of person he wants to be.

Obviously as a Caucasian I can't even pretend to understand the feelings/issues/history of an African American, I had a normal childhood and I had a normal religion and always had a group of friends I fit in with. All that said, I did enjoy the insight of the struggles Obama went though and what I'm certain millions of African Americans go through every day living in the US.

It is both an amazing and a heartbreaking journey as Obama goes to Africa for the first time to meet many of his family members, gets to know them, learns the family history and ultimately learns who his father truly was and resolves thoughts and feelings he had towards them.

Final Thoughts:

 I suppose I'm being spoiler-like here, don't care, it's non-fiction and the book isn't about surprises or twists anyway. It ends with a speech Obama gave in support of John Kerry where he talks about America, Kerry, his wife and kids and his father and family. It's a great way to end the book but with insane Trump Times it's hard to listen to. Anyway I won't get all political, I'll just say I think any of the other candidates would have been better than Trump, God help us if he wins again.

So excellent book, nothings perfect but Obama I think could write fiction as well, he is very good at description and putting emotion in scenes. A solid 8.5 out of 10 from me and a solid recommendation. While I'm not sure this would be a great book for young children, I'd say ages 12+ just so they can fully grasp the important issues therein. This was an audio book from Audible, by go to source for a while to come.