Dreams from My Father

Dreams from My Father

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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance is a memoir
A memoir , is a literary genre, forming a subclass of autobiography – although the terms 'memoir' and 'autobiography' are almost interchangeable. Memoir is autobiographical writing, but not all autobiographical writing follows the criteria for memoir set out below...

 by United States President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

. It was first published in July 1995 as he was preparing to launch his political career, five years after being elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review
Harvard Law Review
The Harvard Law Review is a journal of legal scholarship published by an independent student group at Harvard Law School.-Overview:According to the 2008 Journal Citation Reports, the Review is the most cited law review and has the second-highest impact factor in the category "law" after the...

 in 1990.

Obama's March 2004 U.S. Senate Democratic primary victory in Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 led to the book’s re-publication in August 2004, two weeks after his July keynote address
2004 Democratic National Convention keynote address
The keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was given by then Illinois State Senator, United States Senate candidate , and future President Barack Obama on the night of Tuesday, July 27, 2004...

 at the 2004 Democratic National Convention
2004 Democratic National Convention
The 2004 Democratic National Convention convened from July 26 to July 29, 2004 at the FleetCenter in Boston, Massachusetts, and nominated John Kerry and John Edwards as the official candidates of the Democratic Party for President and Vice President of the United States, respectively, in the 2004...

 (DNC). The 2004 edition included a new preface
A preface is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a foreword and precedes an author's preface...

 by Obama and his DNC keynote address.


The autobiographical narrative tells the story of the life of Obama up to his entry in Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

. He was born in Honolulu
Honolulu, Hawaii
Honolulu is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Hawaii. Honolulu is the southernmost major U.S. city. Although the name "Honolulu" refers to the urban area on the southeastern shore of the island of Oahu, the city and county government are consolidated as the City and...

, Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

, to Barack Obama, Sr.
Barack Obama, Sr.
Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was a Kenyan senior governmental economist and the father of U.S. President Barack Obama. He is a central subject in his son's memoir, Dreams from My Father.-Early life:...

 of Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

, and Ann Dunham
Ann Dunham
Stanley Ann Dunham , the mother of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was an American anthropologist who specialized in economic anthropology and rural development. Dunham was nicknamed Anna, later known as Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, and finally Ann Dunham Sutoro...

 of Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Wichita is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kansas.As of the 2010 census, the city population was 382,368. Located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area...

, who had met as students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Hawaii at Manoa
The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is a public, co-educational university and is the flagship campus of the greater University of Hawaii system...

. Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and divorced in 1964. Obama's father went to Harvard to pursue his Ph. D, but he didn't have the money to take his family with him. After that, he returned to Africa to fulfill his promise to the continent. Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father only one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month's visit. The elder Obama died in a car accident in 1982.

After her divorce, Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro
Lolo Soetoro
Lolo Soetoro, also known as Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo or Mangundikardjo, was the Indonesian stepfather of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America.-Early life and education:...

, an East-West Center
East-West Center
The East–West Center , headquartered in Honolulu, Hawaii, is an education and research organization established by the U.S. Congress in 1960 to strengthen relations and understanding among the peoples and nations of Asia, the Pacific and the United States....

 student from Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. The family moved to Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital and largest city of Indonesia. Officially known as the Special Capital Territory of Jakarta, it is located on the northwest coast of Java, has an area of , and a population of 9,580,000. Jakarta is the country's economic, cultural and political centre...

. When Obama was ten, he returned to Hawaii under the care of his grandparents (and later his mother) for the better educational opportunities available there. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School
Punahou School
Punahou School, once known as Oahu College, is a private, co-educational, college preparatory school located in Honolulu CDP, City and County of Honolulu in the U.S. State of Hawaii...

, a private college-preparatory school, where he was one of only six black students at the school.

Obama attended Punahou School from the 5th grade until his graduation in 1979. Obama writes: "For my grandparents, my admission into Punahou Academy heralded the start of something grand, an elevation in the family status that they took great pains to let everyone know." There he also met Ray (Keith Kakugawa), who introduced him to the African American community.

Upon finishing high school
High school
High school is a term used in parts of the English speaking world to describe institutions which provide all or part of secondary education. The term is often incorporated into the name of such institutions....

, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at Occidental College
Occidental College
Occidental College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1887, Occidental College, or "Oxy" as it is called by students and alumni, is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast...

, where he describes living a "party" lifestyle of drug
A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

 and alcohol
In chemistry, an alcohol is an organic compound in which the hydroxy functional group is bound to a carbon atom. In particular, this carbon center should be saturated, having single bonds to three other atoms....

 use. After two years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia College
Columbia College of Columbia University
Columbia College is the oldest undergraduate college at Columbia University, situated on the university's main campus in Morningside Heights in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It was founded in 1754 by the Church of England as King's College, receiving a Royal Charter from King George II...

 at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, in Manhattan, New York City, where he majored in political science. Upon graduation, he worked for a year in business. He then moved to Chicago, working for a non-profit doing community organizing
Community organizing
Community organizing is a process where people who live in proximity to each other come together into an organization that acts in their shared self-interest. A core goal of community organizing is to generate durable power for an organization representing the community, allowing it to influence...

 in the Altgeld Gardens housing project
Public housing
Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is owned by a government authority, which may be central or local. Social housing is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which may be owned and managed by the state, by non-profit organizations, or by a combination of the...

 on the city's South Side. Obama recounts the difficulty of the experience, as his program faced resistance from entrenched community leaders and apathy on the part of the established bureaucracy. It was during his time spent here that Obama first visited Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ
Trinity United Church of Christ
Trinity United Church of Christ is a predominantly black church with more than 8,500 members, located on the southwest side of Chicago. It is the largest church affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a predominantly white Christian denomination with roots in Congregationalism, which branched...


Before attending Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School
Harvard Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Harvard University. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest continually-operating law school in the United States and is home to the largest academic law library in the world. The school is routinely ranked by the U.S...

, Obama decided to visit relatives in Kenya
Kenya , officially known as the Republic of Kenya, is a country in East Africa that lies on the equator, with the Indian Ocean to its south-east...

. He uses part of his experience there as the setting for the book's final, emotional scene.

As well as relating the story of Obama's life, the book includes a good deal of reflection on his own personal experiences with race and race relations in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


Book cover

Pictured in left-hand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr.
Barack Obama, Sr.
Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was a Kenyan senior governmental economist and the father of U.S. President Barack Obama. He is a central subject in his son's memoir, Dreams from My Father.-Early life:...

 (President Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy). Pictured in right-hand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham
Stanley Armour Dunham
Stanley Armour Dunham was the maternal grandfather of U.S. President Barack Obama. He and his wife Madelyn Payne Dunham raised Obama from the age of 10 in Honolulu, Hawaii.-Early life:...

 and Ann Dunham
Ann Dunham
Stanley Ann Dunham , the mother of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was an American anthropologist who specialized in economic anthropology and rural development. Dunham was nicknamed Anna, later known as Dr. Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, and finally Ann Dunham Sutoro...

 (President Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).

Basis for characters

With the exception of family members and a handful of public figures, Barack Obama is open in the preface about using changed names for privacy reasons and composite characters to expedite the narrative flow. Some of the characters have publicly admitted their real names and various researchers have made suggestions to some characters' real names:
Real life person Referred in the book as
Salim Al Nurridin Rafiq
Margaret Bagby Mona
Hasan Chandoo Hasan
Earl Chew Marcus
Frank Davis
Frank Marshall Davis
Frank Marshall Davis was an American journalist, poet, and political and labor movement activist.-Early life:...

Joella Edwards Coretta
Pal Eldredge Mr. Eldredge
Mabel Hefty Miss Hefty
Loretta Herron Angela
Emil Jones
Emil Jones
Emil Jones, Jr. was the President of the Illinois Senate from 2003 to 2009. A Democrat, Jones served in the Illinois Senate from 1983 to 2009, where he served as President of the Illinois Senate from 2003 to the end of his term...

Old Ward Boss
Keith Kakugawa Ray
Jerry Kellman Marty Kaufman
Yvonne Lloyd Shirley
Ronald Loui
Ronald Loui
Ronald Prescott Loui is an American computer scientist and philosopher identified as "Frederick" in U.S. President Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father memoir, the first student the ten year-old Obama meets at Punahou School...

Wilfred Mitsuji Oka Freddy
Greg Orme Scott
Johnnie Owens Johnnie
Sohale Siddiqi Sadik
Mike Ramos Jeff
Wally Whaley Smitty


In discussing Dreams from My Father, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison
Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor. Her novels are known for their epic themes, vivid dialogue, and richly detailed characters. Among her best known novels are The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Beloved...

 has called Obama "a writer in my high esteem" and the book "quite extraordinary." She praised "his ability to reflect on this extraordinary mesh of experiences that he has had, some familiar and some not, and to really meditate on that the way he does, and to set up scenes in narrative structure, dialogue, conversation—all of these things that you don't often see, obviously, in the routine political memoir biography. [...] It's unique. It's his. There are no other ones like that." In an interview for The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast
The Daily Beast is an American news reporting and opinion website founded and published by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker as well as the short-lived Talk Magazine. The Daily Beast was launched on October 6, 2008, and is owned by IAC...

, author Philip Roth
Philip Roth
Philip Milton Roth is an American novelist. He gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, an irreverent and humorous portrait of Jewish-American life that earned him a National Book Award...

 said he had read Dreams from My Father "with great interests," and commented that he had found it "well done and very persuasive and memorable."

The book "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," wrote Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

 columnist Joe Klein
Joe Klein
Joe Klein is a longtime Washington, D.C. and New York journalist and columnist, known for his novel Primary Colors, an anonymously written roman à clef portraying Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. Klein is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former Guggenheim...

. In 2008, The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

s Rob Woodard
Rob Woodard
Rob Woodard is a novelist, poet and painter based out of Long Beach, California.-Works:He is the author of the novel Heaping Stones, which was published by Burning Shore Press in 2005. What Love Is, his second novel, is scheduled to be put out by the same publisher in late 2007/early 2008...

 wrote that Dreams from My Father "is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years." Michiko Kakutani
Michiko Kakutani
is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times and is considered by many to be a leading literary critic in the United States.-Life and career:...

, the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

-winning critic for The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, described it as "the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president."

The audio book
Audio book
An audiobook or audio book is a recording of a text being read. It is not necessarily an exact audio version of a book or magazine.Spoken audio has been available in schools and public libraries and to a lesser extent in music shops since the 1930s. Many spoken word albums were made prior to the...

 edition earned Obama the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
The Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album has been awarded since 1959. The award had several minor name changes:*In 1959 the award was known as Best Performance, Documentary or Spoken Word...


Five days before being sworn in as President, Obama secured a $500,000 advance for an abridged version of "Dreams From My Father" for middle-school-aged children.

Time Magazine Top 100 List

In 2011, the book was placed on Time Magazine's top 100 non-fiction
Non-fiction is the form of any narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are understood to be fact...

 books written in English since 1923.


  • New York: Times Books; 1st edition (July 18, 1995); Hardcover: 403 pages; ISBN 0-8129-2343-X
    • This printing is now very rare. Only a few signed copies are known, and are estimated to be worth up to $13,000 (depending on condition).
  • New York: Kodansha International (August 1996); Paperback: 403 pages; ISBN 1-5683-6162-9
  • New York: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (August 10, 2004); Paperback: 480 pages; ISBN 1-4000-8277-3
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (May 3, 2005); Audio CD; ISBN 0-7393-2100-5; Includes the senator's speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition on Playaway
    Playaway is the name of a solid-state prerecorded audio player introduced in 2005 by Findaway World, LLC, based in Solon, Ohio. About the size of a deck of playing cards and weighing 2 ounces, it can store up to 80 hours of audio...

     digital audio player
  • New York: Random House Large Print; 1st Large print edition (April 4, 2006); Hardcover: 720 pages; ISBN 0-7393-2576-0
  • New York: Crown Publishers (January 9, 2007); Hardcover: 464 pages; ISBN 0-3073-8341-5
  • New York: Random House (January 9, 2007); eBook; ISBN 0-3073-9412-3
  • Melbourne: Text Publishing (2008); Paperback: 442 pages; ISBN 978-1-921351-43-3

  • Arabic: Aḥlām min abī : qiṣṣat ʻirq wa-irth, translated by Hibah Najīb al-Sayyid Maghrabī; Īmān ʻAbd al-Ghanī Najm; Majdī ʻAbd al-Wāḥid ʻInabah, (2009),
  • Bosnian: Snovi moga oca : priča o rasi i naslijeđu, Sarajevo : Buybook (2008),
  • Chinese: The Dream Road of Obama : Yi Fu Chih Ming, translated by Yao-Hui Wang, Kuan-Lan Shih China Times Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan, (2008), ISBN 978-9571349268
  • Croatian: Snovi mojega oca : priča o rasi i naslijeđu, (2004), ISBN 978-9531820790
  • Danish: Arven fra min far : selvbiografi, Gyldendals Bogklubber, (2009),
  • Dutch: Dromen van mijn vader, translated by Joost Zwart, Atlas, (2007), ISBN 978-9045000893
  • Finnish: Unelmia isältäni : kertomus rodusta ja sukuperinnöstä,translated by Seppo Raudaskoski and Mika Tiirinen, (2009), ISBN 978-9516927230
  • French: Les rêves de mon père, translated by Paris Presses De La Cité, Paris, France, (2008), ISBN 978-2258075979
  • German: Ein amerikanischer Traum, Carl Hanser Verlag
    Carl Hanser Verlag
    Carl Hanser Verlag is a German publishing house, established in 1928 by Carl Hanser in Munich. Among the authors he published are Herta Müller, Martin Mosebach, Reinhard Jirgl, and David Grossman....

     (2008), ISBN 978-3446230217
  • Greek, Modern: Eikones tou patera mou : he historia henos genous kai mias klēronomias, (2004), ISBN 978-9606689413
  • Hebrew: חלומות מאבי (Ḥalomot me-avi), translated by Edna Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Israel, (2008),
  • Hindi: Pitā se mile sapane, translated by Aśoka Kumāra, Aravinda Kumāra Pabliśarsa, Guṛagām̐va,(2009), ISBN 978-8184520170
  • Indonesian: Dreams from my father : pergulatan hidup Obama, (2009), ISBN 978-9794335444
  • Japanese: , translated by Yuuya Kiuchi, Mikiko Shirakura, (2007) ISBN 978-4478003626
  • Korean: Nae abŏji robutŏ ŭi kkum, translated by Kyŏng-sik Yi, Random House
    Random House
    Random House, Inc. is the largest general-interest trade book publisher in the world. It has been owned since 1998 by the German private media corporation Bertelsmann and has become the umbrella brand for Bertelsmann book publishing. Random House also has a movie production arm, Random House Films,...

     Korea, Seoul, Korea, (2007), ISBN 978-8925510149
  • Marathi: Ḍrīmsa phrôma māya phādara, translated by Yamājī Mālakara and Nītā Kulakarṇī, Ameya Prakāśana, (2009),
  • Persian: Rūyā hā yi pidaram, translated by Rītū Baḥrī, (2009), ISBN 978-9641740827
  • Persian: Rūyā hā yi pidaram, translated by Manīzhih Shaykh Javādī, (2009), ISBN 978-6005253092
  • Polish: Odziedziczone marzenia, translated by Piotr Szymczak, (2008), ISBN 978-8372783332
  • Serbian: Snovi moga oca : priča o rasi i nasleđu, translated by Vesna Džuverović; Jasna Simonović, (2008),ISBN 978-8650510292
  • Spanish: Los sueños de mi padre : una historia de raza y herencia, Vintage Español, New York City, New York, (2009), ISBN 978-0307473875
  • Spanish: Los sueños de mi padre : una historia de raza y herencia, translated by Fernando Miranda; Evaristo Páez Rasmussen, Granada : Almed, (2008), ISBN 978-8493668501
  • Swedish: Min far hade en dröm, Albert Bonniers förlag (2008), ISBN 978-9100117283
  • Thai: Bārak ʻŌbāmā : phom likhit chiwit ʻēng,translated by Nopphadon Wētsawat, Krung Thēp : Samnakphim Matichon, (2008), ISBN 9789740201397
  • Turkish: Babamdan hayaller : [ırk ve kimlik mirasının öyküsü], İstanbul : Pegasus Yayınlar (2008), ISBN 978-6055943325
  • Urdu: Obāmā kī āp bītī, translated by Yāsar Javvād, (2009),
  • Vietnamese: Những giấc mơ từ cha tôi, translated by Quang Nguyễn, (2008),

External links

  • All editions at WorldCat
    WorldCat is a union catalog which itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories which participate in the Online Computer Library Center global cooperative...