Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part One: Origins, Chapter Five: Occidental College. Searching For Identity And Purpose.

July 10, 2011 by
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Barack is at Occidental College and in this chapter is having an agonizing self reappraisal after an all night dorm party.

He remembers his final years at Punahou. He had become disaffected with life and was slipping in to drug use or at least experimenting with it on a social basis with his fellow class mates who were on the same track. His grades were slipping and he was apathetic about the future direction of his life as he seemed headed for a pedestrian existence. His goal at the time was to attend a junior college in Hawaii and after that who knew what.

His mother had returned from her anthropology field work in Indonesia. She was no longer married to Lolo and Barack had a new half sister Maya. She was alarmed that his grades were slipping and that he was not making the necessary preparations to attend a four year college. When one of his friends was arrested for drug possession she became further alarmed and shamed him into breaking his lethargy and making the preparations to go to Occidental College near Los Angeles.

At Occidental he was thrown into a whole new milieu. There were many more blacks at the school than at Punahou or even in Hawaii. There was also the adjacent black population of Los Angeles County in the millions, many living in poverty, to consider.

His environment was intellectually more challenging on the issues surrounding race in America and he was  still trying to reconcile himself to his place in life; angry revolutionary or fitting in a white dominated society as a half white, half black man. He tended to see his choices as one or the other.

Eventually he began to see himself as an individual and the experiences of other blacks or mixed racially people did not have to be his and he did not have to form his beliefs or understanding of the world based on the experiences of others. However their books and opinions were still informative.

One of his greatest fears had been that he would always be an outside neither a member of the blacks or the whites. This was the fear he was speaking about at the close of the last chapter when he said he felt utterly alone in life.

Some students were angry and bitter about race relations in the United States while others usually more racially mixed or even able to pass who were content with the status quo.

Barack was  an activist for change even back then. The plight of the black population of Soweto in South Africa under Apartheid was major issue on campus in the years he was there from 1979 to 1981 and he spoke at rallies and other public demonstrations.

It was during this time he began to recognize that when he spoke people listened and that he had his own identity, although black, that was unique in itself.

Listening to Billie Holiday he decides to endure and make his own music in life.



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