One man's journey
I have just finished reading Barack Obama's memoir Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Written in 1995 after being solicited by pubishers who were interested in the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, Obama recounts his early life, culminating in his first trip to Kenya, Africa.
Obama's father was a black Kenyan economist, who he only met once when he was about 10 years old, and his mother a white Kansan anthropologist. He was born in Hawaii and spent a number of his early years in Indonesia. After graduating from college he spent a number of years working as a community organizer in the south side of Chicago.
His memoir explores and questions, in an honest and searching way, the meaning of community, race, identity and family. While I admire what I know of Obama's politics, in the paperback edition I read there is, tacked on to the end, the text of Obama's keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention. It is kind of sad to contrast the seriousness, sincerity and sensitivity of the memoir with the calculating and overt use of his history in the speech. Not hypocrisy exactly, but disappointing nonetheless.
That being said, the section of the book where he finds the truth behind his father's and grandfather's lives is deeply affecting and makes universal the complexities that are present in everyone's history which transcend race and culture. Obama is a smart and self-reflective guy who I came to admire in reading this book.
Here's a profile of Obama from the New Yorker.
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