Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama

This is the book that Barack Obama published before he entered politics, in his mid thirties. In the preface, written in 2004, Obama says that after re-reading the book he wishes it were cut by some 50 pages. I’d cut even more.

By the last hundred pages I was thinking, hurry up already! It just seemed to go on and on, and I was thinking, do I really need to know all this stuff?

Barack Obama was approached by a publisher to write this book after he gained some notoriety for being the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.

In the preface the author says that he felt the story of his mixed race upbringing – a white American mother and a black Kenyan father – ‘might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the American experience’.

While the book is well written, and provides some compelling insights into what it’s like to grow up African-American in the United States, I did feel it was too long.

This is a shame, because I feel if it had run to 300 pages instead of 440, and if Obama had been able to make his points about race, identity and politics more pronounced, that the book would have been more of a success.

As it stands, I feel you read this book more out of interest due to Barack Obama’s current status. If he was just another unknown author this book would not be in print.

For students of political science, perhaps the most interesting insight in the book is that Obama came to his religious faith via his political organising work. Well, for me that was the most interesting revelation of the book. Perhaps this points to the Senator’s current successes.

I wrote favourably about Obama’s second book, The Audacity of Hope a while ago on this blog. Somehow I wish he had written Dreams From My Father after that book.

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