I was at a bookstore a few weeks ago with a friend and asked her if she had ever read Dreams from My Father after I saw it as a staff recommendation. "Yes" she said, "read it. It's Really good." I"m ashamed to say I haven't read anything about or by Obama and I felt a patriotic obligation - I mean I voted for him so why shouldn't I read his memoir? So I did and it's basically amazing.
Firstly, if it wasn't written before Obama decided to run for president (it was first published in 1995) I would question how much of the book was written by him and how much was written by a ghost writer because honestly, the writing is that good. Obama has this way of conveying his thoughts with an emotional eloquence that seems reserved for the president's speech writers - not the presidents themselves.
Secondly, regardless of if you like Obama or not you should read this book. It doesn't focus on the political and doesn't promote our president as the most intelligent man in America or a flawless leader (although the writing does speak for itself). Rather, he exposes his doubts and confusion; Barack Obama's story tells of his struggles with identity, race, and class. Republican or democrat, black or white, you will relate to this memoir. It has a great balance of personal anecdotes and real-world theorizing that reveals how Obama's self-doubt and struggles with self-identity contribute to his greater sense of hope and optimism. He is not a fully-realized man but rather someone who can use his own struggles to inspire himself to change the world for the better.
"What is a family? Is it a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child rearing and divisions of labor? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? An Ambit of love? A reach across the void?I could list various possibilities. But I'd never arrived at a definite answer, aware early on that, given my circumstances, such an effort was bound to fail. Instead, I drew a series of circles around myself, with boarders and shifted as time passed and faces changed but that nevertheless offered the illusion of control. An inner circle, where love was constant and claims unquestioned. Then a second circle, a realm of negotiated love, commitments freely chosen. And then a circle for colleagues, acquaintances; the cheerful grey-haired lady who rang up my groceries back in Chicago. Until the circle finally widened to embrace a nation or a race, or a particular moral course, and the commitments were no longer tied to a face or a name but were actual commitments I'd made myself"
After I finished this book I couldn't help but be deeply honored that this man is my president - and also make it my life's mission to find a way to shake his hand.