Good Reading : August 2007
AUGUST 2007 ı goodreading 13 cover story his own soul, as the child of parents from different races, colours and backgrounds. Reading it today, its only clue to what Obama would become is in the directness with which he confronts the pain of growing up to realise that he was different from those around him, alone and abandoned by his father, yet cosseted within a close and loving family. Barack’s Kenyan father, a Harvard-educated economist met Ann Dunham from Wichita, Kansas when they were graduate students at the East-West Centre of the University of Hawaii. But when Barack was only two years old, the couple divorced and his father returned to Kenya. Ann remarried Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian Muslim student and the family moved to Jakarta. At the age of only ten, Barack moved back to Hawaii for his education, cared for by his grand- parents and later his mother. It was back in Honolulu, amidst a fifth grade group of predominantly white students, that Barack first came to feel the alienation of being a black African- American. It was at this time that Barack’s father came to visit him; it was a short visit, full of tensions and drama, but one which changed the course of Barack’s life. During his month long stay, his father was demanding, authoritarian and insistent upon his young son learning equally about his black heritage as his maternal white heritage, especially through the literature of black oppression and struggle. But tragically, it was the last time that the father and son were to meet. Barack’s father was killed in a car accident in Africa when his son was 21, but from his visit during his teen years, the yearning to know more about his father’s life grew ever more pressing. Alienated and isolated by a community that viewed him as the product of an unusual alliance between white and black, the search for the origins of his racial con- sciousness began. And it was during this time, when questions of his identity began to trouble him and dominate his thinking, that he turned to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. It was, he says, an attempt ‘to push questions of who I was out of my mind’. He graduated in political science from Columbia and then worked in Chicago for a community aid program before entering Harvard where his stellar career really took off. He was elected to the State Legislature of Illinois where his youth, brilliance and audacious eloquence was recognised and he was asked to give the keynote address (the basis of which was his next book, The Audacity of Hope) to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, which stopped the convention in its tracks and gave him a national platform which enabled him to become a senator in Washington.Today, he is viewed as one of the most serious and likely contenders for the presidency, which makes the autobiography he wrote before he began his political career all the more important. For possibly the first time ever, Americans have a front-row seat giving them an uninterrupted view into the heart, soul and mind of a future president. Dreams From My Father is one of the most personal, open and lucid definitions of the motto of America, E Pluribus Unum... Out Of Many (comes) One. A child of black and white parents, born on a Pacific Island, raised in Asia, educated in the best American schools, Barack Obama personifies how America is a product of the entire world. Barack was deter mined to find out about his mysterious and absent father. So he journeyed to Kenya and discovered the truth about the complex and far from perfect father that he had idealised. Barack’s father had had a wife and children in Africa before he left for Hawaii. But it was when his father, clever, ambi- tious and acerbic, ran foul of the Kenyan dictator- ship that he was dismissed from his job and reduced to penury, forcing his wife and children to fend for themselves. Although rehabilitated by a later regime, he left a trail of disappointment and bitterness in his wake. In Kenya, Barack discovered that he had a war m, loving and close-knit family, but one fighting against the scourges of poverty and alcoholism. All of this is told in dramatic manner in Dreams From My Father , but it is written in the context of a young man trying to make sense of his own identity within an American society which was still racist and bitterly divided between black and white.The drugs, the society with which he mixed as a youth were, again in his words, ‘to flatten the land- scape of my heart and blur the edges of my memory’. Today, Barack is the great hope of the Democrats.Yes, he has to beat Hillary Clinton and then he has to fight both the Republican nominee and an American electorate which has never before voted for a man like Barack Obama. But he has FDR’s political intellect, Ronald Reagan’s gift as a communicator, Bill Clinton’s zeal and Harry Truman’s home- spun commonsense. His lack of experience might prove either his downfall as the race to the White House accelerates, or, like Jimmy Carter, his saving grace as American electors turn from has-beens to a fresh, honest and untainted face. But whatever the outcome politically, Dreams From My Father is an astounding and rewarding book written by an astonishing young man. TERMS AND CONDITIONS 1. In orm part of these conditions. 2. The promoter is Good Reading Magazine Pty Ltd. 3. Entry is open to all residents of Australia. 4. Entries must be made between 01/08/07 and 31/08/07 and be sent to Good Reading Magazine, GPO Box 3835, Sydney NSW 2001 or entries can be made at http://www.goodreadingmagazine.com.au 5. The draw will take place on 01/09/07. 6. Prizes cannot be transferred or redeemed for cash. 7. The promoter accepts no responsibility for late, lost or misdirected mail. 8. Any change in the value of the prize between the publishing date and the date the prize is claimed is not the responsibility of the promoter. 9. The Judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. 10. The winners will be notified by mail and the winners’ names will be published in the October issue of Good Reading and will also appear on the Good Reading website during September 2007. Win This month 10 lucky winners could each win a copy of Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama, valued at $34.95 each. To enter, tell us the name of Obama’s second book. Simply write your answer and your name and details on the back of an envelope and mail to ‘Obama Competition’, GPO Box 3835, Sydney NSW 2001, or enter online at www.goodreadingmagazine.com A child of black and white parents, born on a Pacific Island, raised in Asia, educated in the best American schools, Barack Obama personifies how America is a product of the entire world.