Race and Heritage

I recently finished reading Barack Obama’s memoir named Dreams From My Father. I began to read this book because I realized I didn’t know a lot about him and I was curious.

Something that made this book more meaningful, at least for me and maybe others in Kenya, is that a large portion of the book references Kenya. Obama’s dad was from Kenya, so much of the book is Obama grappling with his feelings on that. Also in part three, Obama visits Kenya for the first time and he spends many pages describing the scenery, Nairobi, the wildlife, going on a safari, riding in matatus, and visiting his family in Western Kenya. It is fun to be able to relate to a book in such a concrete way.

For the majority of the book, however, Obama wrestles with race and what his race means to him: while in the US, or Kenya, or Indonesia, or anywhere else. He experiences race and racism firsthand in Hawaii with his African American basketball friends and their acceptance of the “situation”. They are young men who have fully accepted the stereotypes of a black man and are unashamed to conform. He reads Baldwin, DeBois, and Hughes in an attempt to find other people’s words to speak when he couldn’t find his own words. He also sees racism at work in the young moms and struggling teens on the south side of Chicago.

And he tries to understand how race is affecting him and all that he does. One of the bigger factors in confronting his race and its implications is his attempt to make peace with the legacy and memories his father left him. To accomplish this, he felt the need to visit Kenya, see his heritage in a different light, and learn more about it. When he visited Kenya, he saw life as his father must have seen it, and only then could fully envelop his heritage, his ancestry, and his race. In Kenya, he felt “the circle close”.

One thing that I believe makes this book applicable to people, like myself, who have almost nothing in common with Obama, is his exploration of his heritage. He does not resign to it, without thought. I think this allows in us a feeling that we could do the same.

Obama’s book can serve to remind us to embrace our heritage for what it is and what it can contribute to our life.

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2 thoughts on “Race and Heritage

  1. Reid, this is an excellent review in that it concisely covers all the major points and themes of the book, allowing a prospective reader to determine whether they actually want to read this novel. I also really appreciated how you conveyed what you found meaningful throughout the text, as the ability to connect with the audience is a very important aspect of any book.
    For things to work on, I would suggest a more captivating opening paragraph perhaps, as well as more analysis of the book. The majority of your post is summarizing the plot and themes of the novel, which is definitely helpful to a potential reader. However, I would like to know more about the book besides simply what happened. What was the tone of the novel? What about the difficulty? What rhetorical devices did the author use to convey their message? More than just what the book said, I want to know HOW the author said it. Does that make any sense?
    But overall, I thought the review was well-written and informative, so keep it up, girlie!!
    ~Katie

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  2. Reid,
    I just wanted to start off saying that I love reading your blog post. You’re a fantastic writer. What I like about this particular post, is that although it is a book review, you didn’t format it like “bullet points” with you information. You allow each statement to flow into the next, which is refreshing. There was one part where you’re talking about Obama and his trip to Kenya and you said, “It is fun to be able to relate to a book in such a concrete way.” I think with this part it you could have elaborated on this point a little and maybe used it as a way to tell a little bit more about yourself.

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