Book review: “Dreams From My Father” by Barack Obama

by britishmisk

I will admit, President Obama is a man I do admire. Apart from him not fulfilling his pledge to close Guantanamo, there have been a number of instances where he is a made a stand previous administrations have refused to do so, namely with his criticism of Israel and his continuous pressure to start peace negotiations. For those who are looking to find more about his background and where he is coming from, so to speak, his autobiography is an ideal starting point. After reading just a small piece of the book, it becomes quite apparent that Obama is no Uncle Tom, and after finishing it, I wondered if every white American who voted for Obama would have still done so if they had read his biography before hand.

Why do I say that? Well, his life, background, and the influences he has had are far removed from the average Joe of the states. Where many white voters would have been impressed with his eloquence in speaking, I think they would have failed to understand his insightful outlooks on America within the context of the wider world, and therefore not be able to relate to him and put their faith in someone like that to lead their country.

Having lived in Indonesia and being born to a Kenyan father, Obama knows how the rest of the world works. Behind the facade of the beach resorts and tourist traps of the third world, he knows about the poverty and day to day struggle that the people of nations such as Indonesia have to go through every day. Bribery, corruption, an unjust social order, these are aspects of the world that the white classes of the west do not see, and act as a myopia to how the rest of the world really is. Adding into that, unlike most black Americans, he was not stuck behind a social barrier while growing up. Although he was a part of that community, he wasn’t ingrained and pigeonholed into it. He was able to move in and out of different social circles and societies at a time when the ‘melting pot’ of America was still alive and well; a long standing call to integrate and assimilate. All together, we slowly begin to see a picture of why we now have such a radical president in the white house.

One feature of the book that stood out for me particularly were his experiences and reflections growing up in a multicultural environment. Something a lot of British Asians, and many other members of ethnic communities, would be able to relate to. His first journey to Kenya was reminiscent of my own experiences in visiting Pakistan. Though a sort of semi-foreigner, he finds family he has never met before become instant friends, a land where he finally feels at home, where he begins to appreciate who his father was and where he came from, and coming to the understanding that although his father’s country is not his own nation, it will always be a part of him and he will always carry it with him.

Although the book does get a little stale in the middle as he talks about his time campaigning for social welfare in Chicago, the beginning and end are enjoyable and insightful reading. Though I think a lot of people may not be able to relate to some of his experiences and be able to fully appreciate the value of the book, it is definitely something that can be recommended to others, particularly those who don’t really know much about the wider world, as his insights, though concise, are extremely rich in information.