If there is a mystery at the heart of Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father, one thing is not left a mystery, the fact that Barack Obama organized his life on the ideals given to him by his Kenyan father....Read the whole thing.
So we know that his father's ideals were a driving force in his life, but the one thing that Obama does not give us are the contents of those ideals. The closest he comes is when he tells us that his father lost his position in the government when he came into conflict with Jomo Kenyatte, the President of Kenya sometime in the mid 1960s; when he tells us that his father was imprisoned for his political views by the government just prior to the end of colonial rule; and when he tells us that the attributes of W. E. B. DuBois, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela were the ones he associated with his father and also the ones that he sought to instill in himself. (p. 220) This last group is a hodge podge, perhaps concealing as much as it reveals, in that it contains a socialist black nationalist, a Muslim black nationalist, a civil rights leader, and (at the time indicated in the memoir) an imprisoned armed revolutionary.
A bit of research at the library reveals the answers about Barack Obama's father and his father's convictions which Obama withholds from his readers.
And let me add that I found "Dreams From My Father" a perplexing read. For me, the most moving part is the introduction to the new edition, in which he says that he really ought to have written about his mother — as if her "dreams" have more to do with what he is. Certainly, they should. He lived with her (and her parents), and the father abandoned him. Why does his book consign her to the background? His narrative is based on the idea that that his absent father represents his true identity, and I had the sense that, for some reason, he decided that the story of embracing his patrilineal racial identity would make the best narrative. After all, he sold the book proposal based on the excitement created by his distinction as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The story he tells culminates with a trip to Africa as an adult to meet the many relatives who had nothing to do with his upbringing. This he presents as the ultimate homecoming. From a feminist perspective, this troubled me. Had the introduction not reassured me that he knew he owed so much more to his mother, I would have felt downright angry.
But is the real story in the book a submerged subtext about socialism? Is the search for racial identity a sop for white readers?