Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"Dreams From My Father" by Barack Obama

I voted for Obama in 2008 and will do so again in 2012, but I realized that, like with most politicians, I don't know a whole about him personally, beyond the basics. Dreams From My Father, written well before his presidential and senate days, seemed an ideal place to start.

Obama's memoir is an interesting, though not especially absorbing, book. Though it's personal in its exploration of issues of identity and race, there's a certain aloofness to it as well. I learned a lot about Obama's early life, his complicated family, and his struggle to define himself, but I didn't feel like I got to know Obama as a whole. The cool and calm demeanor he's known for now seemed always present.

However, there's a lot to gain from Dreams beyond studying Obama himself. He's especially astute in discussing the black experience in America and the difficulties of improving individuals' and communities' lives. Obama spends a while discussing his time as an organizer in Chicago. It's admirable work but extraordinarily frustrating; I kept finding myself becoming cynical about anyone's ability to enact change. When he travels to Kenya to meet his family through his father's side, he's able to compare and contrast the lives of people in two very separate countries.

From Dreams From My Father I learned about Obama's early life, and I appreciated his analysis of race, but I feel like I missed out on connecting to him as a person. Of course, that's what I wanted out of the book, not necessarily what Obama intended, and perhaps what he did discuss was more important for me to read.

***This book qualifies for the POC Reading Challenge.

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