Saturday, December 03, 2005


Dreams From My Father, Barack Obama, Random House, Inc, 1995, 453 pp.

I read this for one of my reading groups. Being the non-political person that I am, I was completely unaware of who this person is, but my very political girlfriend filled me in. Obama is currently a US Senator from Illinois and a hot guy in the Democratic party these days. After reading his memoir, I am a supporter. He has a fine sense of integrity and understanding about people though I fear that the political process in this country would kill that off in even the strongest individual.

In the early 90s, Obama was studying law at Harvard and became the first Black man to be elected as President of the Harvard Law Review. The publicity engendered by this event brought him a publishing offer, so he wrote this story of his life up to that point. After winning the seat in the US Senate, the book was republished.

Obama's mother was a white woman from Kansas, whose family moved to Hawaii when she was a teenager. There at the University of Hawaii, she met an African student from Kenya. They married and had Barack in the early 60s. But the father left when Barack was only 2 years old to get his PhD at Harvard, because his scholarship money was not enough to support a wife and child. Before he could complete his degree, he was summoned back to Kenya by his government and the marriage dissolved due to time and distance.

So Barack was raised by his white mother and grandparents while his father took on the quality of a myth. When Barack was ten years old, his father came for a two week visit which only served to confuse Barack further. But he managed to complete highschool and college, by which time he had decided to live as a Black man.

After college, he went to Chicago to work as a community organizer in the ghettos of South Chicago and came face to face with the results of racism in a northern industrial city. Just before entering Harvard Law School, he finally traveled to Kenya and met his father's side of the family, finding at last the other half of his heritage.

It was a fascinating book, written in a novelist's style and hard to put down. It added much to my growing fund of knowledge about Blacks in this country, their African forebears, racism and the long slow climb of the Black race in America from slaves to full citizens of this country; a climb which is far from over.

I doubt that this country is ready to elect a Black President, but I am sure it will happen in my lifetime. If Obama can stay in politics and maintain the integrity he displays in his book, I would be glad to have him as President of the United States.

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