Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama

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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance helps readers to understand the exigencies of race, class, and gender in modern American and African American history by illustrating how these demands effect and shape a young Barack Obama as we follow his journey to understand who he is in the absence of his father. Much of the early parts of the memoir reflect on his struggles to understand the complexity of black identity. Obama has the added difficulty of looking at race from a multiracial perspective. He is reconciling being born to a white mother from the Midwest and a black African father from Kenya, in the midst of a country battling with how to move beyond its own demons. It raises the question of how do you learn to be a black man when a white family is raising you, and your black father is nothing more than a collection of other people’s memories. As Obama states “I was trying to raise myself to be a black man in America, and beyond the given of my appearance, no one around me seemed to know exactly what that meant. (70)” His mother attempts to shape his racial identity by helping to foster an appreciation of his culture, bringing him books on the civil rights movement and having him listen to recordings of Martin Luther King Jr. She would remind him “to be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny; glorious burdens that only we [blacks] were strong enough to bear. (47)” However, in the end, she could not shield him from the truth that he was a black in a white society. This darker side of race revealed to him, at an early age, in images of blacks who were using chemical treatments to lighten their skin and gain acceptance in a white man’s world. A world where blacks were denied ... ... middle of paper ... ...rican and African American society that education can be a great equalizer in elevating your position in society. This idea would come up again in Chicago, as his co-workers, with whom he shared both success and failure, would congratulate him on his acceptance into Harvard, as they recognized his advancement as a sign of black people’s progress. The post-civil rights era was one of optimism. For many the goals of the movement were reached with civil rights acts of the 1960’s, bringing not only greater rights to blacks, but also women. Barack Obama grew up in the midst of this transition and faced many of the same growing pains, as others of his generation. As Obama battles with his own feelings on of race and “searches for a workable meaning for his life as a black America”, the reader gains a better grasp on the demands race, class and gender place on society.

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