Dan Sandman

10: Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama

In Autobiography, Books, Non-Fiction on 08/03/2013 at 12:00 pm

It was another book I found at my local library’s book sale; part of their three books for £1 deal. By inspecting the book’s spine, I was surprised to discover that the previous owner had stopped at around page 100 of the 442 paged autobiography. I therefore considered it my mission to take this perfectly good, new book – cast aside by its’ owner – and finish it.

Dreams From My Father (side)

“By inspecting the book’s spine, I was surprised to discover that the previous owner had stopped at around page 100”

Dreams From My Father was first published in 1995 and later updated in 2004: the edition that I read from was not published in Great Britain until 2007. It is interesting to think how quickly Barack Obama’s rise to worldwide fame has been. According to the book’s introduction, Obama spent one year writing the book following his successful election “as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, a legal periodical largely unknown outside the profession.” 14 years later, he would be the first black President of the United States.

The book is an excellent example of a well crafted memoir. It is carefully written throughout, neatly structured and perfectly balanced; reading  Obama’s remarkable prose style is both a pleasure and an inspiration. For example, he uses language to skilfully drift from the personal and anecdotal to the political and sociological. There is an openness to the writing, a readiness to introduce the reader to different characters, and a philosophically moral tone to the odyssey. Throughout, the story shifts smoothly between the author’s inner struggle with his father’s image, his conversations with friends and family, and his essays discussing broader topics such as church politics in Chicago or colonial history in Kenya.

Dreams From My Father (front)

“The book is an excellent example of a well crafted memoir.”

I admired the engaging prose and was pleased to discover that the 44th President can write very well. The book lived up to my expectations as a literary work and at times displayed a warm sense of humour. This is because essentially it’s a very human book about things that matter: things like family, friendship and identity. It was worth reading eighteen years ago and is worth reading now. By my calculations, Obama must have been about 47 when he first became president; maybe, if I start my memoirs now, I’ll be Prime Minister by 2031.


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