Dreams From My Father, A Story Of Race And Inheritance. Barack Obama. Book Review. Preface To the 2004 Edition, Introduction, Part One, Chapter One, Origins.
Stanley Dunham With Daughter Ann and Her Children Maya and Barack
This book was written in the year after Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School. He was the first black elected to be president of the Harvard Law Review and Crown Publishers offered him an advance if he would write about his experiences. Also in the 2004, reissue Preface Obama mentions he was only the third black elected to the Senate since Reconstruction.
The book is about growing up as a person of mixed race in America. His mother, Ann Dunham, was white and his father, Barack Obama, Sr. was black and from Kenya. They met while attending the University of Hawaii. His maternal grandparents were originally from Kansas and his grandfather was in the furniture business and that is how his mother and her parents came to Hawaii. His father, was from a village near Lake Victoria in Kenya. He was the son of an elder and was sent to school in America to learn the ways of the West along with a number of other African students. (Kenya was in the process of disengaging from colonial rule and needed trained administrators.) His mother and father were married in a small wedding and remained together for about two years. Barrack Obama, Sr. left to pursue a PhD at Harvard. They were divorced in 1964.
Young Obama grew up in Hawaii which is often characterized as the melting pot of the Pacific because of the melding of Asians with other Asians, Polynesians and whites. However there were not very many blacks in Hawaii. Young Obama was racially mixed and grew up in a white household with his mother and her parents. The fact his father was missing was not relevant to him as a young child until he grew older and also the fact he was half black and half white was not a concious concern as a youngster.
However he reflects back on these concerns as he became older. He thinks that his grandparents were probably aware of racial problems in mainland America. There were Jim Crow laws in Kansas and they had lived for awhile in Texas were racial prejudice was much more pronounced. He reflects that they were probably skeptical at first at the thought of their daughter marrying a black man and also a foreigner. They knew that mixed race couples had many obstacles to conquer and that at the time such marriages were illegal in many states. However they were liberals even if they would never think of themselves that way and accepted their daughter’s choice. Later on when he was born he was a welcome and a loved part of the family. However as he grew older he became aware that his biological father was absent and that he was half black and he began to reflect how this would affect his life.
This book begins with Obama’s clarity of thought, eloquence of expression and willingness to discuss dispassionately what others often leave unsaid or if said it is with bitterness and rancor.