Dreams from My Father
By Barack Obama
Its a weird African-american biography because sort of the first mixed autobiography. Barack Obama
has pretty much read everything that mattershe was a constitutional law professor at Harvard, all
African-american literature, all political theory that you dont know what to do with itall of those
things work into this book in complicated ways.
Page xv As a result, some people telltale sign.
- When people who dont know me well tell tale sign He is proud to be black. As a narrator
hes extremely self-conscious about presentation. Ingratiate: bring oneself into favor with
someone by flattering or trying to please them (trying to make people like you.) Obama has to
learn to be black, he cant learn about it at home.
- And if I were to explain that no, begins to break down . . . It was informal until you hit this
passage of elevated, melodramatic language. tragic mulatto no one likes to be treated as a
stereotype; trapped between two worlds of white and black.
- Obama is like a sponge, sometimes the stuff he read will come out in his prose in a strange way.
Jon suggests that the passage about son and daughters of Plymouth Rock is very DuBoisian.
Page 15 Hes telling her about the big cities thatll bury you. That also weirdly sounds like a
clich. Sounds like Bruce Springsteen. Obamas normal voice is sort of like an informal tone but
when he speaks otherwise, its like he latches onto something else that mattered to him in some
- And if I were to explain that no, the tragedy is not mine, or at least not mine alone, it is yours
What that guy is actually saying to Obama is, How does it feel to be a problem? and Obama is
saying, Im not the problem, the problem is yours America for not being able to deal with this
Page xvi An autobiography promises feats is part of what this books about.
- You dont normally write an autobiography at age 33. Obama was the first African-American
president of the Harvard Law Review and some publisher said thats pretty cool, maybe we can
get you to write a memoir. It doesnt have to be a life story, just a memoir, a memoir of life and
- Obama is working against speaking for all African-Americans. It seemed like the US could only
handle one African-American at a time. Hes writing against that one person can write for a
whole people. Thats the start. Part 1 Origins
The chapter starts off at East Harlem and the rest of Manhattan. East Harlem is the heart of the African-
American culture in the US. The phrase Harlem Renaissance was used in a long time to describe the
flowering of African-american literary culture production in the 1920s and 30s. Obama moves closer to
Harlem so he can get closer to the heart of African-american culture because he grows up in Hawaii with
a white mom. Its kind of interesting that he starts out the book literally on the border between black
culture and white culture in New York city, where he sort of is as a person.
It gets complicated because Obama lives beside an old man who doesnt say much and then he dies
alone. At this time, Obama doesnt have many friends either so he is sort of alone. So the old man dies
and like a page later Obama gets a call saying his dad dies. Thematic and symbolic connection between
Page 5 That was all. measure my loss.
- To some degree, this whole book is about Obama measuring his loss, and connection to his dead
dad. Doesnt mention his mother much.
Page 12 In 1960, the year that my parents were married, miscegenation arrange for adoption.
- No one uses the word miscegenation anymore, we just say race-mixing, because the prefix mis-
is sort of negative like I misheard you.
- It was against the law to marry someone from another race.
- This passage is a way of saying that Obamas mom was a young white woman about to bear a
black guys kid outside of marriage. Thats why hes talking about possible abortions and
adoption. Thats his mothers predicament. Its a pretty big deal in 1960 America.
Page 21 Shes wise that way, my grandmother wished for himself.
- Obama is a law professor. He needs to evaluate the testimony and their demeanor. This is what
Obama does impeccably well. He hears stories about his grandfather, and then he has to sort
out whats true and thats really hard. On page 21, Obama talks about his grandmother very
- Obama also has to be careful of himself when hes writing the book (to not conform with the
image he wished for himself) The implication is that its dishonest. Obama in general, and very
much to his credit, is hard on himself as a narrator and as a person. Whats impressive about the
memoir is that you read this and hes not very different now from when he was 25. He thinks
really hard about the kind of person he ought to be and to become that person. If he has to
change he will change but he is mostly consistent with his values and so forth.
Page 26 Their stories didnt tell me why but a prop nonetheless.
- Another one of Obamas challenges is he has to somehow write this book that is fair enough to
his dad that he doesnt turn his dad into a prop in his narrative. Obama is self-conscious abouttrying to tell an honest story, which we hope sort of ingratiates him as a narrative. Hes going to
try really hard not to use anyone as a prop or elaborate things in order to tell an honest story.
Every African-american autobiography will hit that point where they realize that they are different and
that theyll have to live through a harder life.
Page 29-30 Eventually I came across was quiet as before.
- Obama is horrified, why would someone do that?
- Michael Jackson
- Theres something disturbing about knowing someone who is so uncomfortable in their black
skin that they are willing to go so far to change it
Page 39 But you will be a man someday, and a man needs to have more sense. Speaker: Lolo
- Heres this kid and people are trying to teach him masculinity
- Even at a young age, Obama has to sort of what the proper messages are in this kind of artificial
Page 46-47 With the help of his brother-in-law, They are not my people.
- That her identity is American, not Indonesian
Page 50-51 Her message came to embrac