Dreams From My Father

Introduction

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) is a memoir by Barack Obama, who was elected as U.S. President in 2008. It explores events of his early years up until his entry into law school in 1988. Obama published the memoir in July 1995, when he was starting his political campaign for Illinois Senate.[1] He had been elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990.[2] According to The New York Times, Obama modeled Dreams from My Father on Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man.[3]

After Obama won the U.S. Senate Democratic primary victory in Illinois in 2004, the book was re-published that year. He gave the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC) and won the Illinois Senate seat in the fall. Obama launched his presidential campaign three years later.[4] The 2004 edition includes a new preface by Obama and his DNC keynote address.[4]

Narrative

Obama recounts his life up to his enrollment in Harvard Law School. He was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas, who had met as students at the University of Hawaii. Obama's parents separated in 1963 and divorced in 1964, when he was two. Obama’s father went to Harvard to pursue his Ph.D. in economics. After that, he returned to Kenya to fulfill his promise to his nation.

Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month's visit.[5] The elder Obama, who had remarried, died in a car accident in Kenya in 1982.[5]

After her divorce, Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, a Javanese surveyor from Indonesia who was a graduate student in Hawaii. The family moved to Jakarta. When Obama was ten, he returned to Hawaii under the care of his maternal grandparents (and later his mother) for the better educational opportunities available there. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, a private college-preparatory school, where he was one of six black students.[6] Obama attended Punahou School from the 5th grade until his graduation from high school in 1979. Obama writes: "For my grandparents, my admission into Punahou Academy heralded the start of something grand, an elevation in the family status that they took great pains to let everyone know." There he met Ray (Keith Kakugawa), who was two years older and also multi-racial. He introduced Obama to the African-American community.[7]

Upon finishing high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles for studies at Occidental College. He describes having lived a "party" lifestyle of drug and alcohol use.[8][9][10] After two years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia College at Columbia University, in New York City, where he majored in political science.[10]

Upon graduation, Obama worked for a year in business. He moved to Chicago, where he worked for a non-profit doing community organizing in the Altgeld Gardens housing project on the city's mostly black South Side. Obama recounts the difficulty of the experience, as his program faced resistance from entrenched community leaders and apathy on the part of the established bureaucracy. During this period, Obama first visited Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, which became the center of his spiritual life.[10] Before attending Harvard Law School, Obama decided to visit relatives in Kenya. He recounts part of this experience in the final, emotional third of the book. Obama used his memoir to reflect on his personal experiences with race and race relations in the United States.

Book cover

Pictured in left-hand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr. (Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy, respectively). Pictured in right-hand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham and Ann Dunham (Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).[11]

Persons in the book

With the exception of family members and a handful of public figures, Barack Obama says in the 2004 preface that he had changed names of others to protect their privacy. He also created composite characters to expedite the narrative flow.[12] Some of his acquaintances have recognized themselves and acknowledged their names. Various researchers have suggested the names of other figures in the book:

Actual name Referred to in the book as
Salim Al Nurridin Rafiq[13]
Margaret Bagby Mona[14]
Hasan Chandoo Hasan[15]
Earl Chew Marcus[16]
Frank Marshall Davis Frank[17]
Joella Edwards Coretta[18]
Pal Eldredge Mr. Eldredge[19]
Mabel Hefty Miss Hefty[20]
Loretta Augustine Herron Angela[21]
Emil Jones Old Ward Boss[22]
Keith Kakugawa Ray[23]
Jerry Kellman Marty Kaufman[24]
Yvonne Lloyd Shirley[25]
Ronald Loui / Terrence Loui (composite) Frederick[26]
Greg Orme Scott[27]
Johnnie Owens Johnnie[28]
Mike Ramos Jeff[29]
Sohale Siddiqi Sadik[15]
Wally Whaley Smitty[30]
Reception

In discussing Dreams from My Father, Toni Morrison, a Nobel Laureate novelist, has called Obama "a writer in my high esteem" and the book "quite extraordinary." She praised

"his ability to reflect on this extraordinary mesh of experiences that he has had, some familiar and some not, and to really meditate on that the way he does, and to set up scenes in narrative structure, dialogue, conversation—all of these things that you don't often see, obviously, in the routine political memoir biography. ... It's unique. It's his. There are no other ones like that."[31]

In an interview for The Daily Beast, the author Philip Roth said he had read Dreams from My Father "with great interests," and commented that he had found it "well done and very persuasive and memorable."[32]

The book "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein.[33] In 2008, The Guardian's Rob Woodard wrote that Dreams from My Father "is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years."[34] Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times, described it as "the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president."[35]

The audiobook edition earned Obama the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 2006.[36] Five days before being sworn in as President in 2009, Obama secured a $500,000 advance for an abridged version of Dreams from My Father for middle-school-aged children.[37]

Time Magazine Top 100 List

In 2011, Time Magazine listed the book on its top 100 non-fiction books written in English since 1923.[38]

Versions
  • New York: Times Books; 1st edition (July 18, 1995); Hardcover: 403 pages; ISBN 0-8129-2343-X
    • This printing is very rare. Only a few signed copies are known, and are estimated to be worth up to $13,000 (depending on condition).
  • New York: Kodansha International (August 1996); Paperback: 403 pages; ISBN 1-56836-162-9
  • New York: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (August 10, 2004); Paperback: 480 pages; ISBN 1-4000-8277-3
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (May 3, 2005); Audio CD; ISBN 0-7393-2100-5; Includes the senator's speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition on Playaway digital audio player [39]
  • New York: Random House Large Print; 1st Large print edition (April 4, 2006); Hardcover: 720 pages; ISBN 0-7393-2576-0
  • New York: Crown Publishers (January 9, 2007); Hardcover: 464 pages; ISBN 0-307-38341-5
  • New York: Random House (January 9, 2007); eBook; ISBN 0-307-39412-3
  • Melbourne: Text Publishing (2008); Paperback: 442 pages; ISBN 978-1-921351-43-3
Translations
  • Arabic: Aḥlām min abī : qiṣṣat ʻirq wa-irth, translated by Hibah Najīb al-Sayyid Maghrabī; Īmān ʻAbd al-Ghanī Najm; Majdī ʻAbd al-Wāḥid ʻInabah, (2009), OCLC 460600393
  • Bosnian: Snovi moga oca : priča o rasi i naslijeđu, Sarajevo : Buybook (2008), OCLC 488621036
  • Chinese: 歐巴馬的夢想之路:以父之名 (pinyin: Ōu bā mǎ de mèngxiǎng zhī lù: Yǐ fǔ zhī míng; literally: "Obama's road of dreams: from his father"), translated by Yao-Hui Wang (Chinese: 王輝耀) and Kuan-Lan Shih (Chinese: 石冠蘭). China Times Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan, (2008), ISBN 978-957-13-4926-8
  • Croatian: Snovi mojega oca : priča o rasi i naslijeđu, (2004), ISBN 978-953-182-079-0
  • Czech: Cesta za sny mého otce : jedna z nejpůsobivějších autobiografických knih o sebepoznání a hledání vlastní identity, translated by Marie Čermáková, Praha : Štrob, Širc & Slovák, (2009), ISBN 978-80-903947-6-6
  • Danish: Arven fra min far : selvbiografi, Gyldendals Bogklubber, (2009), OCLC 488375191
  • Dutch: Dromen van mijn vader, translated by Joost Zwart, Atlas, (2007), ISBN 978-90-450-0089-3
  • Finnish: Unelmia isältäni : kertomus rodusta ja sukuperinnöstä, translated by Seppo Raudaskoski and Mika Tiirinen, (2009), ISBN 978-951-692-723-0
  • French: Les rêves de mon père, translated by Paris Presses de La Cité, Paris, France, (2008), ISBN 978-2-258-07597-9
  • German: Ein amerikanischer Traum, Carl Hanser Verlag (2008), ISBN 978-3-446-23021-7
  • Greek, Modern: Eikones tou patera mou : he historia henos genous kai mias klēronomias, (2004), ISBN 978-960-6689-41-3
  • Hebrew: חלומות מאבי (Ḥalomot me-avi), translated by Edna Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Israel, (2008), OCLC 256955212
  • Hindi: Pitā se mile sapane, translated by Aśoka Kumāra, Aravinda Kumāra Pabliśarsa, Guṛagām̐va,(2009), ISBN 978-81-8452-017-0
  • Indonesian: Dreams from My father : pergulatan hidup Obama, (2009), ISBN 978-979-433-544-4
  • Japanese: My Dream: An autobiography of Barack Obama (マイ・ドリーム: バラク・オバマ自伝), translated by Yuya Kiuchi, Mikiko Shirakura, (2007) ISBN 978-4-478-00362-6
  • Korean: Nae abŏji robutŏ ŭi kkum (내 아버지로부터의 꿈), translated by Kyŏng-sik Yi, Random House Korea, Seoul, Korea, (2007), ISBN 978-89-255-1014-9
  • Marathi: Ḍrīmsa phrôma māya phādara, translated by Yamājī Mālakara and Nītā Kulakarṇī, Ameya Prakāśana, (2009), OCLC 515543205
  • Persian: Ruyāhā-ye pedaram, translated by Rītū Baḥrī, (2009), ISBN 978-964-174-082-7
  • Persian: Ruyāhā-ye pidaram, translated by Manīzhih Shaykh Javādī, (2009), ISBN 978-600-5253-09-2
  • Polish: Odziedziczone marzenia, translated by Piotr Szymczak, (2008), ISBN 978-83-7278-333-2
  • Portuguese: A Minha Herança, translated by Artur Lopes Cardoso, Cruz Quebrada, (2008), ISBN 978-972-46-1830-2
  • Portuguese: A Origem dos Meus Sonhos, translated by Irati Antonio, Renata Laureano & Sonia Augusto, (2008), ISBN 9788573125948
  • Serbian: Snovi moga oca : priča o rasi i nasleđu, translated by Vesna Džuverović; Jasna Simonović, (2008),ISBN 978-86-505-1029-2
  • Spanish: Los sueños de mi padre : una historia de raza y herencia, Vintage Español, New York City, New York, (2009), ISBN 978-0-307-47387-5
  • Spanish: Los sueños de mi padre : una historia de raza y herencia, translated by Fernando Miranda; Evaristo Páez Rasmussen, Granada : Almed, (2008), ISBN 978-84-936685-0-1
  • Swedish: Min far hade en dröm, Albert Bonniers förlag (2008), ISBN 978-91-0-011728-3
  • Thai: Bārak ʻŌbāmā : phom likhit chiwit ʻēng, translated by Nopphadon Wētsawat, Krung Thēp : Samnakphim Matichon, (2008), ISBN 978-974-02-0139-7
  • Turkish: Babamdan hayaller : [ırk ve kimlik mirasının öyküsü], İstanbul : Pegasus Yayınlar (2008), ISBN 978-605-5943-32-5
  • Urdu: Obāmā kī āp bītī, translated by Yāsar Javvād, (2009), OCLC 421024762
  • Vietnamese: Những giấc mơ từ cha tôi, translated by Quang Nguyễn, (2008), OCLC 317713059
References
  1. ^ Knapp, Kevin (July 5, 1995). "Alice Palmer to run for Reynolds' seat". Hyde Park Herald. p. 1. Talk of who might replace Palmer, assuming she wins the race, has already begun. One front-runner might be Palmer-supporter Barack Obama, an attorney with a background in community organization and voter registration efforts. Obama, who has lived 'in and out' of Hyde Park for 10 years, is currently serving as chairman of the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Obama said that even though the election would be years away, 'I am seriously exploring that campaign.'  Hevrdejs, Judy; Conklin, Mike (July 7, 1995). "Hevrdejs & Conklin INC.". Chicago Tribune. p. 20. Retrieved February 10, 2010. Polpourri: ... Barack Obama will announce he's running for the state Senate seat occupied by Alice Palmer, who's running for Reynolds' U.S. congressional seat. Obama, who has worked with Palmer, is an attorney at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland and newly published author of Dreams from My Father.  Mitchell, Monica (August 23, 1995). "Son finds inspiration in the dreams of his father". Hyde Park Herald. p. 10. 
  2. ^ Butterfield, Fox (February 6, 1990). "First black elected to head Harvard's Law Review". The New York Times. p. A20. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Ybarra, Michael J (February 7, 1990). "Activist in Chicago now heads Harvard Law Review" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune. p. 3. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Matchan, Linda (February 15, 1990). "A Law Review breakthrough" (paid archive). The Boston Globe. p. 29. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Corr, John (February 27, 1990). "From mean streets to hallowed halls" (paid archive). The Philadelphia Inquirer. p. C01. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Drummond, Tammerlin (March 12, 1990). "Barack Obama's Law; Harvard Law Review's first black president plans a life of public service" (paid archive). Los Angeles Times. p. E1. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Evans, Gaynelle (March 15, 1990). "Opening another door: The saga of Harvard's Barack H. Obama". Black Issues in Higher Education. p. 5. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Pugh, Allison J. (Associated Press) (April 18, 1990). "Law Review's first black president aims to help poor" (paid archive). The Miami Herald. p. C01. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ Greg Grandin, "Obama, Melville, and the Tea Party." The New York Times, 18 January 2014. Retrieved on 17 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b Turow, Scott (March 30, 2004). "The new face of the Democratic Party—and America". Salon.com. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Cader, Michael (July 30, 2004). "Publishers eyeing Obama". The New York Sun. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Leroux, Charles (August 6, 2004). "The buzz around Obama's book" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune. p. 1 (Tempo). Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Sweet, Lynn (March 17, 2005). "Be-bop, Barack and bucks from book" (paid archive). Chicago Sun-Times. p. 39. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Scott, Janny (May 18, 2008). "The story of Obama, written by Obama". The New York Times. p. A1. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Merida, Kevin (December 14, 2007). "The Ghost of a Father". Washington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  6. ^ Mendell, David (October 22, 2004). "Barack Obama; Democrat for U.S. Senate; Catapulted into celebrity, the state senator from Hyde Park is seen as the voice of a new political generation, a leader for African-Americans and a devoted family man. But is it possible for anyone to meet all those expectations?" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune. p. 1 (Tempo). Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Kenneth T. (June 9, 2008). "Running on 'Aloha Spirit'; How growing up in Hawaii influences Obama's political beliefs". U.S. News & World Report. p. 16. Retrieved February 10, 2010.  Calmes, Jackie (January 3, 2009). "On campus, Obama and memories". The New York Times. p. A11. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  7. ^ Jake Tapper, "Life of Obama's Childhood Friend Takes Drastically Different Path", ABC News, 30 March 2007; accessed 31 October 2016
  8. ^ Obama (2004), pp. 93–94. see: Romano, Lois (January 3, 2007). "Effect of Obama's Candor Remains to Be Seen". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2007. 
  9. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q (October 24, 2006). "Obama Offers More Variations From the Norm". New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c "Barack Obama '83. Is He the New Face of The Democratic Party?", Columbia College Today.
  11. ^ "Q&A ON THE NEWS". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  12. ^ Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father, pg. xvii. Three Rivers Press, New York City: 2004.
  13. ^ "Facing the reality of deprivation". Irish Times. January 23, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  14. ^ O'Neill, Sean; Hamilton, Fiona (March 23, 2008). "The ascent of Barack Obama, Mr Charisma". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b Goldman, Adam (May 18, 2008). "Old friends paint portrait of Obama as young man". Associated Press. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  16. ^ Helman, Scott (August 25, 2008). "Small college awakened future senator to service". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  17. ^ Thanawala, Sudhin (August 3, 2008). "Advice dissent". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  18. ^ Calmes, Jackie (January 3, 2009). "On Campus, Obama and Memories". New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  19. ^ Hoover, Will (February 11, 2007). "Obama's declaration stirs thrills at Punahou". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ Essoyan, Susan (July 27, 2008). "A teacher's Hefty influence". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  21. ^ Springen, Karen (November 5, 2008). "They knew him when: First impressions of Barack Obama". Newsweek. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  22. ^ Wills, Christopher (April 1, 2008). "Obama's 'godfather' an old-school Chicago politician". Associated Press. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  23. ^ Tapper, Jack (April 3, 2008). "Life of Obama's Childhood Friend Takes Drastically Different Path". ABC News. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  24. ^ Davidson, Phil (March 2009). "Obama's mentor". Illinois Issues. Retrieved June 5, 2010. 
  25. ^ Sweet, Lynn (February 20, 2007). "Obama's research memo—on himself". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  26. ^ Ramos, Connie (2008). "Our Friend Barry: Classmates' Recollections of Barack Obama and Punahou School". 
  27. ^ Scharnberg, Kirsten (March 25, 2007). "The not-so-simple story of Barack Obama's youth". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  28. ^ Lakshmanan, Indira A.R. (July 3, 2008). "Obama Draws On Lessons From Chicago Streets to Propel Campaign". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  29. ^ Boylan, Peter (December 24, 2008). "Obama Tries to Escape in Hawaii". Time Magazine. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  30. ^ Jorgensen, Laurel (December 28, 2006). "Ill. barber shop of Ali, Obama must move: Hyde Park Hair Salon will have to relocate after 80 years of business". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  31. ^ Ulaby, Neda (December 10, 2008). "Toni Morrison On Bondage And A Post-Racial Age". Tell Me More. NPR. Retrieved January 21, 2009. 
  32. ^ Brown, Tina (October 30, 2009). "Philip Roth Unbound: Interview Transcript". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  33. ^ Klein, Joe (October 23, 2006). "The Fresh Face". Time. Retrieved October 19, 2006. 
  34. ^ "Books Blog: Presidents who write well, lead well", The Guardian, November 5, 2008. Retrieved on November 8, 2008.
  35. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (January 18, 2009). "From Books, President-elect Barack Obama Found His Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2009. 
  36. ^ Joan Lowy, Presidential Hopefuls Publishing Books (Page 2), Washington Post, December 12, 2006
  37. ^ Obama Secures $500,000 Book Advance, UPI, March 19, 2009
  38. ^ Sun, Feifei. "All-TIME 100 Nonfiction Books". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2016-12-19. 
  39. ^ Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance Archived August 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., Playaway for Libraries, Random House Audio, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7393-7471-9.
External links
  • Barack Obama interview, 1995 August from the Connie Martinson Talks Books collection in the Claremont Colleges Digital Library
  • All editions at WorldCat

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