Dreams From My Father

Rewriting the Tragic Mulatto College

Colson Whitehead’s novel Sag Harbor (2009) and Barack Obama’s memoirs Dreams From My Father (1995) both tell a portion of the complicated story of race and race relations in America. The main characters in both of these novels have experiences of being the “tragic mulatto” in their cultures. For Sag Harbor’s Benji Cooper, he must find a balance between the black community he is a part of in the summer and the white community he lives in during theschool year. For Barack Obama, a man of mixed race, he attempts to find an identity and a place in his family and as a black man in America. Both Benji Cooper’s and Barack Obama’s stories blur the reader’s sense of conventional racial boundaries in order to prove that race is not an easily defined or constrained issue, but rather it has many connotations and it permeates throughout different societies.

During the school year, Benji Cooper attends a predominantly white prep school in Manhattan. The school has a dress code where the students have to wear ties and dress clothes to class. Benji describes another person’s reaction to his appearance when dressed for school as, “an old white man stopped us on a corner and asked us if we were the sons of a diplomat. Little princes of an...

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