Nine years before the Senate campaign that made him one of the most influential and compelling voices in American politics, Barack Obama published this lyrical, unsentimental, and powerfully affecting memoir, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller when it was reissued in 2004. Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s struggle to understand the forces that shaped him as the son of a black African father and white American mother—a struggle that takes him from the American heartland to the ancestral home of his great-aunt in the tiny African village of Alego.
Obama opens his story in New York, where he hears that his father—a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man—has died in a car accident. The news triggers a chain of memories as Barack retraces his family’s unusual history: the migration of his mother’s family from small-town Kansas to the Hawaiian islands; the love that develops between his mother and a promising young Kenyan student, a love nurtured by youthful innocence and the integrationist spirit of the early sixties; his father’s departure from Hawaii when Barack was two, as the realities of race and power reassert themselves; and Barack’s own awakening to the fears and doubts that exist not just between the larger black and white worlds but within himself.
Propelled by a desire to understand both the forces that shaped him and his father’s legacy, Barack moves to Chicago to work as a community organizer. There, against the backdrop of tumultuous political and racial conflict, he works to turn back the mounting despair of the inner city. His story becomes one with those of the people he works with as he learns about the value of community, the necessity of healing old wounds, and the possibility of faith in the midst of adversity.
Barack’s journey comes full circle in Kenya, where he finally meets the African side of his family and confronts the bitter truth of his father’s life. Traveling through a country racked by brutal poverty and tribal conflict, but whose people are sustained by a spirit of endurance and hope, Barack discovers that he is inescapably bound to brothers and sisters living an ocean away—and that by embracing their common struggles he can finally reconcile his divided inheritance.
A searching meditation on the meaning of identity in America, Dreams from My Father might be the most revealing portrait we have of a major American leader—a man who is playing, and will play, an increasingly prominent role in healing a fractious and fragmented nation.
Pictured in lefthand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr. (President Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy). Pictured in righthand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham and Ann Dunham (President Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).
About the Author
Barack Obama was inaugurated as the forty-fourth president of the United States on January 20, 2009.
“Fluidly, calmly, insightfully, Obama guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race.”
—Washington Post Book World
“Beautifully crafted…moving and candid…This book belongs on the shelf beside works like James McBride’s The Color of Water and Greg Williams’s Life on the Color Line as a tale of living astride America’s racial categories.”
“Provocative…Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“One of the most powerful books of self-discovery I’ve ever read, all the more so for its illuminating insights into the problems not only of race, class, and color, but of culture and ethnicity. It is also beautifully written, skillfully layered, and paced like a good novel.”
“In Dreams from My Father Barack Obama takes us on a probing journey in a search for the truths about family and race. Obama’s writing is incisive yet forgiving. This is a book worth savoring.”
“Dreams from My Father is an exquisite, sensitive study of this wonderful young author’s journey into adulthood, his search for community and his place in it, his quest for an understanding of his roots, and his discovery of the poetry of human life. Perceptive and wise, this book will tell you something about yourself whether you are black or white.”
—Marian Wright Edelman