Saturday, April 28, 2007
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
Barack Obama is a very impressive man. He has risen to prominence so quickly and, while I was reading his book, announced his candidancy for the President. And his book is impressive as well. There are really two stories here: One is Obama's own personal story and the other is the story of the black experience, not just in America but in Africa as well. And, of course, the stories are very intertwined. He tells the one story calmly, very straight-forward and matter-of-fact. But you can feel his emotions as he tells his personal history. And Obama is a very lyrical writer. Some of his descriptions are so poignant and beautiful.His personal story is his quest to find himself as a black man with a white mother, how does he cope with the injustices faced by blacks in this country and how does he integrate his love for his mother and her parents who raised him with the anger that is felt by most blacks towards white people. He also helps explain that anger. He looks for answers in his deceased father's native country of Kenya, looking for himself as he visits with multitudes of relatives for the first time. This section was my personal favorite. He brings the struggles faced by his family as well as most natives in Africa into sharp relief, but also brings to life their culture and the beauty of the country.Part of his own personal growth involves his work on the South Side of Chicago trying to improve education and living conditions for the people there. Not being a believer himself, he finally attends church with some of those whom he is working with and for. I loved this passage: "Those stories--of survival, and freedom, and hope--became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shamed about, memories more accessible than those of ancient Egypt, memories that all people might study and cherish--and with which we could start to rebuild. And if a part of me continued to feel that this Sunday communion sometimes simplified our condition, that it could sometimes disguise or suppress the very real conflicts amoung us and would fulfill its promise only through action, I also felt for the first time how that spirit carried within it, nascent, incomplete, the possibility of moving beyond our narrow dreams. The audacity of hope!"
After his trip to Kenya, Obama returns to the US and attends law school at Harvard. And he contemplates not just the struggles of blacks in this country, but those of the Japanese interned in WW2, Russian Jews in sweatshops, dust-bowl farmers leaving their dreams behind, and those on the borders waiting to come in. "I hear all of these voices clamoring for recognition, all of them asking the very same questions that have come to shape my life. What is our community, and how might that community be reconciled with our freedom? How far do our obligations reach? How do we transform mere power into justice, mere sentiment into love? The answers I find in law books don't always satisfy me--for every Brown vs Board of Education I find a score of cases where conscience is sacrificed to expedience or greed. And yet, in the conversation itself, in the joining of voices, I find myself modestly encouraged, believing that so long as the questions are still being asked, what binds us together might somehow ultimately prevail."
I learned so much reading this book, sometimes I was uncomfortable, sometimes moved, entertained, even bored a few times. But it made me think a great deal and ask a lot of questions.
Posted by Framed at 8:49 PM
Sounds like a very intense book, but I would be really interested in reading it. I just heard of Obama two days ago in the news.
I'm curious. Is there any indication anywhere in the book that specifies whether he wrote this in conjunction with a ghost writer? Or is he really one of those gifted souls who can write such beautiful sentences without help? I am really thinking I need to read this book before the election.
Jill, the book was written in 1995 before he really started having politcal aspirations. He was asked to write a book about the black experience because he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He ended up writing his own memoirs. There is no ghostwriter mentioned.Alyson, I think you would enjoy this book. It's well-written and very interesting.
My Sage reader hasn't been working. It doesn't show that you have any new posts and yet, I stop by and there are 5 or so. Grrrr!Sounds like a book I need to read before the elections, too. Very nice review.
Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...
I picked this up last night in the book store but put it back in favourite of a biography of Katherine Hepburn. I'll be picking up Obama next time I'm at the bookshop!
This is a wonderful write-up, an essay a college professor would mark with an "A!" Really, it gave me such a good picture of the book that I want to go borrow it from the library. Quite a man.
Of Mice and Magic by David Farland
I didn't really want to read this book after "The Scarlett Pimpernell," but there it was, the next on my A to Z list. After the first paragraph, I was hooked:
"Benjamin Ravenspell's mother liked to put things off. She never paid her taxes until the tax agents beat down her door. She could go months without mopping. And she never bothered to cook dinner--period. Instead she'd just waste away until her hungr drove her to throw Ben in the car and race to the nearest fast food restaurant. Which is how nine-year-old Benjamin Ravenspell found himself eating at McDonalds's at midnight on Christmas Eve."
All right, the first chapter of the book which deals with Ben's parents is hilarious. Ben tells his parents he wants a pet for Christmas, doesn't get it, but changes his habits to convince them he is capable of caring for a pet. This includes babysitting his friend's nila monitor lizard for a week. At the end of the week, Ben and his mom go to the pet store to buy a mouse and Ben chooses Amber. Arriving home, he learns that Amber is to be the lizard's meal. Reluctantly, he starts to drop her in the cage and suddenly finds himself turned into a mouse. Thus begins his adventures as a familiar to Amber, who turns out to be a powerful wizard. Of course, her first act of magic, transfiguring Ben, alerts the entire magical world (both bad and good) to a new magical force and they converge on the two mice. This is a such a cute, creative story, although the first chapter remains my favorite. There are some interesting characters along the way who, I hope, will show up in the remainder of the series.
It's a great book for ten-year-olds and up. I enjoyed the homilies at the beginning of each chapter. Here's my favorites:
"Everyone lives in a cage. Sometimes the cage is made by others, but mostly we live in cages built by the limits of our imaginations."
"No matter how fast you run, you can't escape your own fear. The only way to beat it is to face it."
"To be defeated, you must first give up."
Posted by Framed at 7:32 PM
This sounds like a really fun book. Another to add to my TBR list. I hope I don't turn out like that mother though, because I rarely cook, and I hate to mop. I usually do go get food before I'm starving though.
I've checked out the non-fic challenge. However, if all goes as planned, I'm going the Peace Corps and moving to Africa in June. So, I don't want to sign up for such a late challenge. :)
Alyson, I thought it was funny because it was so me. But I don't wait until I'm starving to go to McD's. Eva, Good luck with the Peace Corp. Even if you don't join the challenge, you may find some good book ideas.
Sounds like a really fun book. I love to read young reader books now and again. You single-handedly keep adding to my to be read list!!
This sounds like something that a younger child might enjoy having read aloud to. But I'll definitely be reading - someday!
I think Farland must have stolen that paragraph from one of my daughter's journals! Too funny and way too close to reality.Sounds like a very fun book. On the list it goes. Love the homilies, too.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Feb 5, 2007 ****What a delightful book. I've heard so much about the movie I haven't seen that I was glad for this opportunity to read the book. As I read it, I could see where so many stereotypes of our day originated with this book: the weak fop who is really a secret identity for the hero, the villain rubbing his bony cold fingers together as he contemplates his evil designs, the beautiful heroine who is intelligent and independent but really wants to be swept away by a strong man, and the unfortunate image of a money-grubbing Jew. So what if the language is a little melodramatic and the story a touch far-fetched. It just made the book that much funner to read. I loved how Orczy describes the effeminate Lord Percy and his long-suffering wife who considers him as a foolish pet, albeit a rich and incredibly handsome one. "Thus human beings judge of one another, superficially, casually, throwing contempt on one another, with but little reason and no charity." It is this misjudgment that is at the heart of "The Scarlet Pimpernel." Lord Percy and Marguerite really love each other but, because of their preconceived notions, all kinds of havoc is wreaked on their relationship. And Chauvelin is the perfect villain who gives "a weird chuckle, as he rubbed his bony, talon-like hands one against the other, with a gesture of fiendish satisfaction." He is truly an amoral creature devoted only to the Revolution and I enjoyed despising him immensely. I recommend this novel for when you're in the mood for a great swashbuckling tale, knowing that good triumphs over evil in the end.
Posted by Framed at 7:12 PM
Literary Feline said...
Does this mean you are all finished with the Classics Challenge? Way to go! It sounds as if you ended on a high note too!
I really enjoyed this book as well. I've seen the movie, and it is so good it's one of the reasons I picked it for the classics challenge. The movies is excellent, and now that you've read the book, you should watch it!
I will definitely add this to my list if it's not already on my A.P. list. It sounds so fun. I love the movie.
Feline, yes, one challenge down and how many more to go??Alyson, I think I'll borrow your mom's someday.Cassie, you would love the book.
I haven't read the book or seen the movie. You have just added it to my list. Sounds like a fun read. Thanks for the great review...
Now I need to add this to my TBR list! Neat review. :)
But Chauvelin was not really so very horrible -- just completely the political animal and devoted to the overthrow of the aristocracy. His means were dreadful, but his aims were not.Besides Ian McKellen played him wonderfully!
Congratulations on finishing the classics challenge. I own this book, so really should read it. Love the movie and would die to see the musical on Broadway. We three sisters should go someday.
Book, we just need to pick a day. Is it still on Broadway or should we hope it comes to SLC soon?
I loved the book, have seen a movie version (very old) and mini-series (with the Brideshead Revisited guy - Anthony something - loved both) and have a sequel to the book around here, somewhere. I was surprised at how funny the story could be, at times. Sink me, but it's a fine tale. :)