Dreams of My Father- By: Barack Obama

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President Barack Obama’s book, Dreams from My Father, explores the significant impact of feminism in various aspects. A key figure who greatly influenced Obama is his mother. This influence is evident from the very beginning of the book, as Obama reflects on how his writing would have been different if he had known his mother would not survive her illness. He acknowledges that he would have depicted his mother in a completely contrasting manner if given the chance.

Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas who married a black man from Kenya, was an independent thinker and courageous individual. Despite being left alone to raise her son, Barry, she was determined to pave the way for his success as a student and leader. Ann pursued higher education and obtained a degree in anthropology. Later on, she married an Indonesian student and relocated to Jakarta with her son. Nonetheless, she had concerns about the quality of education in Indonesian schools and took it upon herself to teach Barry English for three hours before school, even waking him up at 4am. Barry has vivid memories of her emphasizing the significance of embracing values in order to develop into a respectable human being (49).

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Barry’s mother dedicated a considerable amount of time teaching him the importance of embracing his black identity. According to Barry, she emphasized the significance of embracing black people as a whole and would bring books about the civil rights movement home (51). This highlights Obama’s realization that he would be treated differently upon his return to America. He later understands that his mother was simply warning him about the discrimination he would face. Ultimately, she teaches him the value of embracing uniqueness. Another influential female figure in Obama’s life was his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, also known as Toot.

During his teenage years, she was the one who raised him and served as the support system for their family. Despite facing sexism, she accomplished becoming the first female vice-president at her local bank and sometimes earned more than her husband. Obama recognizes that his grandmother’s personal aspirations were unexpected.

Initially, he wonders about the possibility of someone believing in their inability to succeed. However, he gains insight into his grandmother’s circumstances at a young age, enabling him to grasp American culture as he begins college in Los Angeles. Barry comprehends that his grandmother’s sole desire was to satisfy the needs of her grandchildren, which he believes fueled her determination throughout the years. She would often express, “As long as you kids do well, that’s all that counts” (57).

When Barry arrives in Los Angeles for school, he encounters multiple women who greatly impact his life. Initially, he meets Joyce, whom Barry describes as an attractive woman with green eyes and honey skin. However, during a conversation about attending a Black Students’ Association Meeting, Joyce surprises Barry with her unexpected response.

Joyce responds, saying that she shouldn’t have to decide between white people and black people. She acknowledges that it may have been a previous issue, but now white people are treating her as an individual. However, it is black people who are pressuring her to choose sides and not allowing her to be true to herself. The narrator notes that Joyce is multiracial with African, French, and Native American heritage, which surprises Barry given her response.

Upon reflection, Barry recognizes that Joyce’s actions were nothing more than placing blame on others. He starts to question the disparity in treatment between white individuals and those, like himself, who are of mixed race or have college degrees. Barry considers Joyce’s behavior as pitiful, unable to comprehend why someone would downplay their own black heritage. Through this encounter, Barry comes to understand that he and Joyce are not so dissimilar; perhaps he, too, is uncertain about his racial identity. Furthermore, Regina plays a significant role in Barry’s decision to leave and pursue further education in Manhattan.

Regina, one of Barry’s classmates, takes pride in her black identity and plays a crucial role in helping Barry embrace his own race. Unlike Joyce, Regina actively encourages Barry to acknowledge and accept his blackness. She prompts him to reflect on his actions and attitudes towards his heritage through various incidents. For instance, she questions why he never uses his real name and engages in discussions about their shared childhood experiences. Additionally, she challenges his choice of reading a “racist” book in a coffee shop, prompting him to question his motives. After multiple conversations with Regina, Barry has an epiphany, realizing how a single dialogue can be transformative. He understands the importance of embracing his culture and being confident in his racial identity.

Barry’s sister, Auma, visiting from Kenya, brings another feminine influence to his life. This visit allows Barry to truly get to know his father as Auma shares the story of the Old Man. Auma is a strong and determined character who becomes a significant figure for Barry during this period. She has a positive impact on him and leaves him with lingering questions about how their first encounter changed his life. The visit takes place when Barry is still considering the idea of becoming an organizer, and Auma’s presence serves as inspiration. Barry also spends a significant amount of time with Auma when he goes to Kenya.

Barry’s trip to Kenya involves various encounters with individuals who have a significant influence on him. Among these, Mona, Angela, and Shirley are the initial women Barry meets at his debut community event. Additionally, Sadie becomes his collaborator in eliminating asbestos from the residential units of Altgeld Gardens. Notably, during his stay in Kenya, Barry is accompanied by a caretaker who ensures his well-being and introduces him to his relatives.

In the aftermath of the Sadie and asbestos meeting, Barry receives insight from another woman named Bernadette. Bernadette’s words provoke Barry to contemplate the lack of change and the necessity for action. She cynically remarks, “Mr. Obama. We just gonna concentrate on saving our money so we can move outta here as fast as we can” (248). As Barry interacts with these women and hears their accounts of the adversities they endure, he recognizes that the women in his community simply require encouragement and guidance to strive for improvement.

Barry meets many of his relatives, particularly the women among his father’s family, during his visit to Kenya. Among the various aunts and relatives he encounters, it is Granny who narrates the tale of his grandfather and father, Ohyango and Barack Sr.. While Granny is sharing the story, Auma interrupts to express her dissatisfaction with the women’s role in the family. This leads to a conversation between Auma and Granny about the customs of Kenyan women. These discussions prompt Barry to reflect on Granny’s words as he reclines on the mat.

Barry acknowledges the wisdom in his grandmother’s words as she recounts their grandfather’s past, a different era. He reflects on the patriarchal nature of Kenyan culture, noting that despite this, the women in his family have achieved greater success than the men. Barack understands that he will forever have queries about his father and himself, and he realizes the importance of accepting these questions and continuing to forge ahead.

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Dreams of My Father- By: Barack Obama. (2016, Jun 01). Retrieved from


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