Discovering identity and family history: ‘Dreams from My Father’

Iman Alrashid, Copy Editor

“Dreams from My Father” is a memoir written by Barack Obama, which delves into the themes of race and inheritance. As the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, Obama shares his life story through this book.
“I look back now and understand that I was at an important crossroads then, thinking hard about who I wanted to be in the world and what sort of contribution I could make … I had more questions than answers … Behind all of this floated something more personal a deeper set of unresolved questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? How do I belong?”
In the autobiography, Obama’s quest for redemption takes center stage, fueled by an unyielding yearning to understand his biological father. Also named Barack, he hailed from Kenya, and his absence shaped Obama’s aspirations while his union with Ann, Obama’s mother, dictated his everyday existence.
“In photographs, I could see that my father looked nothing like the people around me- he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk. But it wasn’t something we talked about, and it didn’t really register in my mind.”
“Dreams from My Father” takes the reader on a captivating journey through Obama’s life, beginning in Hawaii and progressing through Indonesia, Occidental College in Los Angeles, Columbia University in New York and ultimately to Chicago, where he embarks on his public service career while navigating harsh political realities. Through his experiences in Chicago, Obama grows into a self-aware and politically astute leader. These experiences also help him reconcile with his biracial identity and claim his heritage in Africa, where his father and grandfather are buried.
In Kenya, he connects with his previously unknown family and gains insight into the spirits of his ancestors through a collection of letters and memories shared by his African grandmother.
“Dreams from My Father” is divided into three sections, comprising 19 chapters in total. Obama’s lively and descriptive writing style takes the reader on a winding journey with a clear beginning and end. The memoir is brought to life with Obama’s effective use of storytelling techniques, including detailed descriptions and vivid characterizations, making it an engaging and easy-to-read account of his experiences. Adding an extra layer of authenticity to the narrative, the inclusion of personal photographs featuring the author and his family helps to enchant the reader.