Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Author: Barack Obama
Total pages: 442 (Including epilogue)
Total approximate words: 1,48,000 words
A little back story before I write my few cents about this awesome book. I bought this at the airport on one of my travels back to my hometown, Siliguri, IN 2015. Don't remember which airport it was, but buying books at any store for me is the equivalent of a huge foodie who gets excited at the mention of any good restaurant. Since Barack Obama and my father are of similar age, I though to gift the book to him. Mind you, he isn't an avid reader. He is however, an extremely social person. I didn't give him the book with any hopes of getting his opinion of it. Kind of like, no strings attached gift. Six years later, when I temporarily moved to Siliguri from Dubai, to my parent's house, I saw the book gathering dust by my dad's bedside. I asked him how was the book. Plainly, he replied that it was good book. Not based on my dad's opinion at all, I took the book from him, and started reading it. In a few days, stretched over two months, in between my work and chores, a bit of Netflix, and social media, I finished reading the book. That familiar feeling of accomplishment in finishing a book warmed my heart, but it was more than just a good read. And below is why do I say so.
This gorgeous gorgeous book is a memoir of Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. President. I say gorgeous because, firstly, I personally love indulging into memoirs, and secondly a memoir by an affluent personality in his/her own words feels immensely personal to read. The details of their lives somehow makes it relatable to its readers, something that a biography kind of fails to do.
Obama has penned his life story from childhood to the time of his marriage to Michelle Obama. The emphasis is majorly on his childhood all the way to being an organizer, just before he gets into Law school. He shares about his childhood days in Indonesia, and the details about the differences in the American and Indonesian culture which affected little, his own time there, but caused a bigger difference between his mother and his step dad who was an Indonesian. As a result of which, the boy is sent back to the States to his grandparents, to continue his studies. It is there, that he meets his own father for the first time, Barack Obama. The brief meeting for a few days wasn’t enough for him to understand or even know much about the man who gave him life.
Throughout his school and college years, Obama always felt like he belonged to the black community more than the white, despite having a white mother and being raised in a white family. His college years were filled with a certain amount of regression on realizing the racism around. His pursuit of finding his roots finally takes a turn after he finishes college, and moves to New York, where he meets Marty, who recruits him as an organizer.
Obama later moves to Chicago, and continues working as an organizer, whose main task was to support local black communities in coming together to solve the many overlooked and obvious problems of the community with the help of the local governing authorities.
After a few years while securing some success in his efforts, he gets accepted at Harvard Law School. Before he finally steps into the next chapter of his life, he decides to visit his father’s place, Kenya for the first time. He travels throughout Kenya with his step sister, to meet all the relatives, where he also learns many, many things about his father, grandfather and the forefathers.
The epilogue concludes the book with Obama briefly sharing about his short meeting with his youngest step brother George. In his pursuit to learn more about his father’s tribe Luo, Obama meets a historian in Nairobi, Rukia through Auma. The three talk about the pasts and presents of black people, not just in Africa but in the States as well, all over an authentic African dinner. The trip completes with Auma and Obama going to Mombasa for a day by the coast, and then returning back to Nairobi in a supposedly expensive bus that actually assigned seats to its passengers.
In the years that followed after the trip to Kenya, Obama finished his law from Harvard, meets his wife, Michelle and takes her to Hawaii for a family introduction. He continues to accelerate his efforts in supporting black communities, by working with churches and community groups.
LINES THAT MADE ME SMILE AND MIGHT MAKE YOU TOO!
‘Honesty—Lolo should not have hidden the refrigerator in the storage room when the tax officials came, even if everyone else, including the tax officials, expected such things. Fairness—the parents of wealthier students should not give television set to the teachers during Ramadan, and their children could take no pride in the higher marks they might have received. Straight talk—if you didn’t like the shirt I bought you for your birthday, you should have just said so, instead of keeping it wadded up at the bottom of your closet. Independent judgement—just because the other children tease the poor boy about his haircut doesn’t mean you have to do it too.’
*(Lolo was Obama’s step father, and the above conversation was between little Barack and his mother Ann on the values that makes a human being.)
‘Everybody was welcome in the club of disaffection. And if the high didn’t solve whatever it was that was getting you down, it could at least help you laugh at the world’s ongoing folly and see through all the hypocrisy and cheap moralism.’
‘Well….there was a woman in New York that I loved. She was white. She had dark hair, and specks of green in her eyes. Her voice sounded like a wind chime. We saw each other for almost a year. On the weekends, mostly. Sometimes in her apartment, sometimes in mine. You know how you can fall into your own private world? Just two people, hidden and warm. Your own language. Your own customs. That’s how it was.’
‘What is our community, and how might that community be reconciled with our freedom? How far do our obligations reach? How do we transform mere power into justice, mere sentiment into love? The answers I find in law books don’t satisfy me—for every Brown v. Board of Education I find a score of cases where conscience is sacrificed to expedience or greed.’
Of the many memoirs that I have had the opportunity to treat my mind to, Barack Obama’s ‘DREAMS FROM MY FATHER’ has made it to the top shelve. The language used through out the book is so very easy to understand and the way the entire memoir has been weaved is so relatable. Many times, the experiences shared in the chapters have made me smile as I read into them, thinking that I might have been in similar situations, for a moment even forgetting that the man who wrote about such experiences was no ordinary man! That is how beautifully it is written! An optimum usage of details about the author’s personal life without any irrelevant or unnecessary stretch. That’s clever writing for me, to know what to omit and what not to.
Below is my final rating for this wonderful, wonderful memoir.
Ease of reading: 10/10
Writing style (to keep the reader engaged): 10/10
Resonating to the reader (moving, and relatable): 10/10
If you love reading stories that are personal, relatable, and leaves your heart a little bit warmer than what it was, DREAMS OF MY FATHER is the book for you.
Do let me know your opinion about this brilliantly written book through an email or post it in the comments section. Best five responses will be featured in the website.
PS This review is based on my personal reading of the book and understanding it with my own limited experiences.