Dreams From My Father

Dreams From My Father

A Story of Race and Inheritance

Book - 2004
Average Rating:
Rate this:

In this iconic memoir of his early days, Barack Obama "guides us straight to the intersection of the most serious questions of identity, class, and race" ( The Washington Post Book World ).

"Quite extraordinary."--Toni Morrison

In this lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir, the son of a black African father and a white American mother searches for a workable meaning to his life as a black American. It begins in New York, where Barack Obama learns that his father--a figure he knows more as a myth than as a man--has been killed in a car accident. This sudden death inspires an emotional odyssey--first to a small town in Kansas, from which he retraces the migration of his mother's family to Hawaii, and then to Kenya, where he meets the African side of his family, confronts the bitter truth of his father's life, and at last reconciles his divided inheritance.

Praise for Dreams from My Father

"Beautifully crafted . . . moving and candid . . . This book belongs on the shelf beside works like James McBride's The Color of Water and Gregory Howard Williams's Life on the Color Line as a tale of living astride America's racial categories." --Scott Turow

"Provocative . . . Persuasively describes the phenomenon of belonging to two different worlds, and thus belonging to neither." -- The New York Times Book Review

"Obama's writing is incisive yet forgiving. This is a book worth savoring." --Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

"One of the most powerful books of self-discovery I've ever read, all the more so for its illuminating insights into the problems not only of race, class, and color, but of culture and ethnicity. It is also beautifully written, skillfully layered, and paced like a good novel." --Charlayne Hunter-Gault, author of In My Place

" Dreams from My Father is an exquisite, sensitive study of this wonderful young author's journey into adulthood, his search for community and his place in it, his quest for an understanding of his roots, and his discovery of the poetry of human life. Perceptive and wise, this book will tell you something about yourself whether you are black or white." --Marian Wright Edelman
Publisher: New York : Three Rivers Press, c2004.
Edition: Revised edition
ISBN: 9781400082773
Branch Call Number: 973.0405 OBAMA B
Characteristics: xvii, 442 pages ; 21 cm.


From Library Staff

2010 Kansas Reads selection. This autobiography discusses the Kansas roots in President Obama's family tree.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Aug 23, 2020

Barak Obama truly is a storyteller. His words are so thought out and truthful. I have always wanted to read this book and finally had the chance. It definitely shows you a perspective of who the man is and how he came to be.

May 08, 2020

Am I the only one who didn’t know how compelling, tender, brilliant, not-intellectual but yet quite informative and mind-blowing, and just plain good this memoir is? I avoided it the whole time he was president until now, and with time it has only widened the distance between what he was as president and where he came from in this telling of his life. And that’s good because if you read it more as a person who became president without judgment, it’s like reading any memoir of someone who became something spectacular but didn’t grow up with any inkling that would be their future.

All that aside, it’s just plain beautiful. There’s no politics but you do learn what a community organizer does, which I didn’t really, really understand, to be honest. Still, not political in the boring sense. Or very political in the get-things-done, make-the-world-a-better-place sense.

It’s easy to get drawn into such a movie-like life, and I don’t why it hasn’t yet been made into a movie. It’d be fun to see the cast, and the locations, and the drama between family.

Apr 07, 2020

This autobiography is dull reading through Obama's childhood but becomes more interesting from his teen years onward. Part 2 describing his community-organizing struggles in south Chicago is compelling reading as Obama comes face-to-face with poverty and racism (that he hadn't experienced in Hawaii). The title might more appropriately be "Dreams from My Maternal Grandfather" as his formative years were lived in his grandfather's home in Hawaii. It's unfortunate that the only family photographs are on the cover of the book (without captions).

Feb 23, 2019

Powerful: how ones identity or lack thereof, shapes who we are: the quest, if successful, leaves more questions than answered, room to form a unique identity from a blend of what is gleaned from the quest. And to know this man became president of the United States makes his story even more poignant. I truly believe we were privileged to have had such a man as our leader.

Dec 15, 2018

So inspiring!
   And that voice!

JCLCatherineG Apr 27, 2018

This was a fascinating look at the internal struggles Obama dealt with in his youth.

Feb 08, 2018

Too bad the former President started with such promise ended by dividing the country and constantly apoligizing for America to other countries. His infamous “red line” to Syria’s Assad not to use chemical weapons was crossed with no repercussions. He allowed Russia and Iran to set up in that country because they saw a weak President. His ideology is one of appeasement. All the “illegal” immigration problems are layed at his feet, He doubled the national debt with his socialist views. etc. etc. etc

Aug 07, 2017

Written before he entered the political sphere, in 'Dreams from My Father' Barack Obama explores his personal history as a child and young man of mixed race growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. He goes on to detail his simultaneously discouraging and rewarding experiences working as a community organizer in Chicago's underprivileged south side. Finally, he documents his poignant first visit to his father's ancestral homelands in Kenya, making the acquaintance for the first time with the extended family who had existed to him previously only as an anonymous collection of half-siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins.

While I didn't find this memoir as riveting as I'd hoped -- and, to be fair, I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting -- I was grateful for, appreciative of and occasionally surprised by this insight into Obama's earlier life. Additionally, in a time when so many memoirs are co-written, and when others of our political leaders seem unable to formulate a single grammatically correct sentence, I found myself continuously impressed by his natural writing ability.

Mar 10, 2017

This is a beautifully written book, whether the author became President of the United States or not, and there is no consciousness at all that this could even possibly be his destiny. As a work of memoir, he has invented conversations and combined or renamed characters, but the book rings true to its very core. I can’t imagine that there could be a greater contrast than that between ‘Dreams from My Father’ and ‘The Art of the Deal’, the memoir of the current presidential incumbent.

For my complete review, please visit:

Feb 14, 2017

A magnificent piece of work, one that humanizes President Obama, and provides deep insight into his motivations. I found myself appreciating his background, culture, and humanity more with each chapter. Very much worth a read, especially as a contrast to the current U.S. administration.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Apr 10, 2020

“... I felt as if my world had been turned on it head; as if I had woken up to find a blue sun in the yellow sky, or heard animals speaking like men. All my life, I had carried a single image of my father ... one that I had later tried to take as my own. The brilliant scholar, the generous friend, the upstanding leader – my father was all those things. All those things and more, because except for that one brief visit in Hawaii, he had never been present to foil the image, because I hadn’t seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives: their father’s body shrinking, their father’s best hopes dashed, their father’s face lined with grief and regret. ... that image had suddenly vanished. Replaced by ... what? A bitter drunk? An abusive husband? A defeated, lonely bureaucrat? To think that all my life I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost! ...” (p. 220)

Apr 07, 2020

"I'm not black,' Joyce said. 'I'm multiracial.' ... 'Why should I have to choose between them?' she asked me. ... No -- it's black people who always have to make everything racial. They're the ones making me choose. They're the ones who are telling me that I can't be who I am ...'. ... the problem with people like Joyce. They talked about the richness of their multicultural heritage and it sounded real good until you noticed that they avoided black people. It wasn't a matter of conscious choice, necessarily, just a matter of gravitational pull, the way integration always worked, a one-way street. The minority assimilated into the dominant culture ...". (p. 99-100)


Add Age Suitability
EuSei Nov 20, 2015

EuSei thinks this title is suitable for 1 years and under


Add a Summary
Apr 15, 2020

This autobiography, published in 1995 when Obama was age 35, is divided into three parts: Part 1: Hawaii - presents his childhood up to entering university; Part 2: Chicago - presents his work life in New York City and Chicago following university graduation; and Part 3: Kenya - describes the first trip to visit his step-family in Kenya (prior to studying law and entering politics). The book lacks both a table of contents and an index. There are no family photographs to complement the text.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at LPL

To Top