Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dreams from My Father

After reading Polanski's autobiography I moved on to Barack Obama's 1995 autobiography "Dreams from My Father". This is a strange book. It is a bit hard to understand why anyone at the time would have thought publishing 442 pages of self-absorbed rambling reflections on family and racial identity by the youthful Obama was a good idea. But of course, in a development which should hearten parents of underachieving children everywhere, the conflicted aimless Obama of this book somehow went on to be elected President.

This book doesn't shed much light on how he did it. The Obama of this book is plagued by self doubts, too willing and able to pick holes in his preferred self image. He wants to be an authentic American black but knows that his mother was white and that he was raised by whites. He wants to be proud of his African blood but is all too aware of all of Africa's failures. The resulting lack of direction and self-confidence would seem to be a big handicap for a politician. Perhaps Obama's later book "The Audacity of Hope" (which I have not read) explains how he resolved his issues and became an effective politician but this book doesn't offer many clues. And the narrow focus makes it hard to get a clear picture of Obama as a whole.

I found the book readable and sporadically interesting. However it is also quite lengthy and seemed cliched at times. It is mostly of interest because Obama went on to be elected President. So unless you are a politics addict or relate to Obama's identity issues I would not recommend this book.


  1. In my view the book cannot "... shed much light on how he did it" because he did not do it, as we all know. His presidency is a result of morphing (in this case lowering) standards so as to self-appease the affirmative activism that has developed in a large proportion of today's white population. Be it! Now we have to live with it and with its still-to-unfold consequences for future generations, their standards, their views of history, and their facing newly empowered enemies who do not give a damn about his blabber.
    Generally, I find it laughable how today's celebrities of mixed heritage emphasize their blackness, clearly for their gain. Has our first black president ever called himself white, I wonder. Deeply inside of him, I hope, he is thankful for that half.

  2. I think there is still room for doubt whether being black is a net positive for a politician with Presidential ambitions. In any case it is still a high mountain to climb.

    As for policy, Obama's administration seems to be pretty generic Democratic.