Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Part Two: Chicago, Chapter Eleven; Auma and Father.

August 23, 2011 by
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Dr. Auma Obama

Auma his sister came to see him. She was studying in Germany for her master’s degree in linguistics and she came to Chicago to know Barack, a half brother she had never met. She was an intelligent woman. However she dispelled some myths he had in his head about his father probably planted by his mother.

Auma told him that Barack Sr. came back to Kenya with his masters from Harvard in Economics with high hopes of being an important administrator in the post colonial government. The two major tribes in Kenya were the Kikuyu and the Luo . The Luo was the smaller and less powerful politically of the two. (Tom Mboya was a powerful Luo in the government and in the beginning Barack Sr.’s mentor and protector. However he was assassinated by a Kikuyu gunman.) Jomo Kenyatta was the President and a Kikuyu.  Barack Sr. had a job in the administration, however, he was passed over for more important jobs in favor of  Kikuyu administrators.

Barack Sr. believed that the government should rise above tribalism and that favoritism based on tribal origins was wrong and inhibited Kenya as a country.  He didn’t care who heard his criticisms and they got to Jomo Kenyatta, who called him in and warned him to be quiet. Barack Sr., who was also a heavy drinker, failed to take heed and he was dismissed from the government and prevented from working in the private sector also. Auma related that these were bad years for the family. Ruth, the wife he met at Harvard, left with her two children and Auma and her brother stayed with Barack Sr. However they had to live off the kindness of relatives and often did not  have their own house.

During this time Barack Sr. had a serious auto accident and it took him nearly a year to recover. After he was released from the hospital he went to  Hawaii for a visit with Barack Jr.

After he returned home Kenyatta died and Barack Sr. was able to get a low level job in the Water Department. ( A drastic come down for a man of his intellect and ambition.) His constitution was weakened by the auto accident (and several bouts with malaria). Barack Sr. was a severely disillusioned man and his dreams of rising to the top of the first native generation to lead Kenya after the British left were dashed. He continued to drink heavily and ultimately died a premature death a disheartened and failed man.

Barack is stunned by this information about his father who he had placed on a pedestal before this.

He begins to have a premonition that the fate of his father as a black African and the problems that prevented him from fulfilling his hopes and ambitions may be also his fate as a black American.

Auma leaves with the admonition that they should both return for a visit to their father’s grave in the Luo home village to see him lying peacefully with his ancestors.  She also leaves him with the haunting thought that the black man’s true self might be found wanting.  A myth that probably haunted his father living in post colonial Kenya where the British had taught generations of natives that they were not able or ready to govern themselves.

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