Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part Three, Kenya, Chapter Fifteen: Nairobi, Kenya. Exuberance and Reality.

October 3, 2011 by
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Barack  flies to Nairobi, Kenya after a brief sojourn in Europe. At the airport he is at first disappointed when he doesn’t see Auma who was supposed to meet him. However he soon finds her but is disappointed to find out his bag has not been unloaded and is bound for Johannesburg, South Africa.

The British Airways attendant assures the bag will be sent back to Nairobi on the next flight and it will be delivered to him. He buys a necklace for Auma and learns there is one price for locals and a higher price for tourists or white people. Auma corrects things and takes him to her apartment. He takes note that there is a gleaming Nairobi of high-rise commercial buildings and apartments and there is an older section where Auma lives. The new area is for the educated Kenyans who have entered the global and mainstream economy and the other is for the less educated who are a part of the local economy. Why Auma lives where she does is not explained as she has obtained degrees from a German University and is teaching in Nairobi.

He meets his relatives including Aunt Jane who is childless but takes care of the family children along with other cousins, nephews and nieces. A younger brother Bernard is introduced.  He notices that their standard of living is close to those living in Altgeld Gardens. Also there is the same lack of men that Mary, Father Wills’s parishioner, mentioned on the South Side.

Bernard at seventeen is having trouble in school and appears to be aimless. All his relatives all seem to be living on the margins of the commercial economy of Kenya, even Auma who is as well or better educated as he.

When his bag is not delivered he and Auma go to the airport to retrieve it only to learn that no one knows anything about it. He is rudely told to take his complaints downtown when Auma chastises them for their indifferent conduct.

At the downtown office they receive the same treatment until an uncle unexpectedly shows up who is a friend of the manager. He intercedes and then the bag is immediately found and sent to Auma’s house.  Barack learns that even though he is black and was at first exhilarated to be in Nairobi where almost everyone else was also black it turns out Nairobi is a place that you must have personal or tribal connections to accomplish even minor things like retrieving a lost bag.  Also when he and Auma go to a restaurant they are treated indifferently while the white tourists get all the attention from the staff.

Later he is told that he must visit his Aunt Sarah but Auma can’t go because there is a dispute over the small estate of Barrack Sr. Sarah is claiming that Auma, Roy and Bernard are not Barack Senior’s children.

One wonders how Barack fits into all this particularly the estate disbursement. Are only the children of the first wife qualified to inherit?

Kenya does not seem to be that black paradise he thought it was when he first arrived. In fact it is very much like the South Side.



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