Autobiographies are a tricky business. There is bound to be some dramatization and some fictionalization for making someone’s life-changing or life-moulding experiences interesting to whoever chooses to read it. Personally, I like to believe in people. One should, specially while reading personal memoirs. Obama’s Dreams from My Father pulled a lot of strings, in spite of the fact that most of the things he talks about do not affect me even remotely. Except the fact that I studied Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.
However, if you scratch beneath the surface, his story is simply that of a curious boy trying to reach out to his roots. It presents someone confident of dealing with the world, and yet confused about his own identity. By the end of the book, he finally clears the clouds hovering over his identity. He selects suitable answers to the questions left to him by his white American mother and a black father from Kenya. He feels satisfied with these answers and moves on to deal with larger questions that future life and his country poses to him.
The book is in the simple narrative style that straight away makes friends with the readers. Instead of trying to pull feathers of explanation of the book, I just want to quote some lines from two different stages of his life.
“My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t, end there.
At least that’s what I would choose to believe.” (Dreams from My Father, Page 111)
He was still a student at Columbia University and was already full of questions and knew what kind of answers he wanted. He does give long descriptions of working as an Organizer and attempts of making social changes but the best part is that he doesn’t try to impress anyone with that. Just like any other man, his family was his strength and weakness.
“What is a family? Is it just a genetic chain, parents and offspring, people like me? Or is it a social construct, an economic unit, optimal for child reader and divisions of labour? Or is it something else entirely: a store of shared memories, say? An ambit of love? A reach across the void? I could list various possibilities. But I’d never arrived at a definite answer.” (Dreams from My Father, Page 326)
This book must have been a cathartic experience for him. Whatever future may hold for him, he has done justice to his memories and questions in his head through Dreams from My Father.