Each month, someone from the MiNDFOOD editorial team will select a book to read and share, before reviewing it at the end of the month. We encourage you to join us and read along, then share your thoughts.
Our online producer Nikki Addison has chosen Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father, as the February read. Written in 1995 before Obama won the Illinois Senate seat, the memoir details the former US President’s early life up until he began studying at Harvard Law School in 1988.
Read the review below – and let us know your thoughts!
Dreams From My Father is a fascinating memoir which provides insight into the early life of former US President Barack Obama. Written by Obama himself, the book covers his childhood growing up in Hawaii with a white mother and grandparents, his move to Indonesia as a young boy, his college experience in Los Angeles and the beginnings of his career as a community organiser in Chicago.
Much of the memoir focuses on the impact of Obama’s absent father, whom he only meets once in his lifetime. As he searches for meaning in his father’s absence, Obama grapples with his identity as an American who is half black and half white. “I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant”, he writes.
It isn’t until he reaches college that Obama begins to really celebrate African American culture and history, prompting his eventual move to Chicago’s South Side where he begins working to improve the local community through grassroots organising. After seeing the beginnings of progress Obama applies to Harvard Law School, realising if he wants to create real change he needs a greater understanding of how the law works. Shortly after being accepted, he decides to visit his father’s homeland, Kenya.
The third part of the memoir is set in Kenya and follows Obama’s transformative experience as he meets his extensive family and learns more about the man his father was. In Kenya, he finally comes to terms with his identity. “A circle was beginning to close, so that I might finally recognise myself as I was, here, now, in one place”, he says. “I realised that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America – the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago – all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the colour of my skin.”
Dreams From My Father is a well-written, captivating memoir that explores important topics of race, identity and belonging in contemporary America. Whether you were an Obama supporter or not, this is guaranteed to be an interesting read that offers a fresh perspective of life in the United States.