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Dreams from My Father  
Dreams from my father.png
Author Barack Obama
Country United States
Genre(s) Memoir
Publisher Times Books (1995)
Three Rivers Press (2004)
Publication date July 18, 1995
August 10, 2004
Pages 403 (1995)
453 (2004)
ISBN ISBN 0-8129-2343-X (1995)
ISBN 1-4000-8277-3 (2004)
OCLC Number 55534889
Dewey Decimal 973/.0405967625009/0092 B 22
LC Classification E185.97.O23 A3 2004
Followed by The Audacity of Hope

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance is a memoir by United States President Barack Obama. It was first published in July 1995 as he was preparing to launch his political career,[1] five years after being elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990.[2]

Obama's March 2004 U.S. Senate Democratic primary victory in Illinois led to the book’s re-publication in August 2004, two weeks after his July keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (DNC).[3] The 2004 edition included a new preface by Obama and his DNC keynote address.[3]



The autobiographical narrative tells the story of the life of Obama up to his entry in Harvard Law School. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama, Sr. of Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas, who had met as students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and divorced in 1964. Obama's father went to Harvard to pursue his Ph. D, but he didn't have the money to take his family with him. After that, he returned to Africa to fulfill his promise to the continent. Obama formed an image of his absent father from stories told by his mother and her parents. He saw his father only one more time, in 1971, when Obama Sr. came to Hawaii for a month's visit.[4] The elder Obama died in a car accident in 1982.[5]

After her divorce, Ann Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an East-West Center student from Indonesia. The family moved to Jakarta. When Obama was ten, he returned to Hawaii under the care of his grandparents (and later his mother) for the better educational opportunities available there. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, a private college-preparatory school, where he was one of only six black students at the mostly white school.[6]

Obama attended Punahou School from the 5th grade until his graduation in 1979. Obama writes: "For my grandparents, my admission into Punahou Academy heralded the start of something grand, an elevation in the family status that they took great pains to let everyone know." There he also met Ray (Keith Kakugawa), who introduced him to the African American community.[7]

Upon finishing high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled at Occidental College, where he describes living a "party" lifestyle of drug and alcohol use.[8][9][10] After two years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia College at Columbia University, in Manhattan, New York City, where he majored in political science.[10] Upon graduation, he worked for a year in business. He then moved to Chicago, working for a non-profit doing community organizing in the Altgeld Gardens housing project on the city's South Side. Obama recounts the difficulty of the experience, as his program faced resistance from entrenched community leaders and apathy on the part of the established bureaucracy. It was during his time spent here that Obama first visited Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ.[10]

Before attending Harvard Law School, Obama decided to visit relatives in Kenya. He uses part of his experience there as the setting for the book's final, emotional scene.

As well as relating the story of Obama's life, the book includes a good deal of reflection on his own personal experiences with race and race relations in the United States.

Book cover

Pictured in left-hand photograph on cover: Habiba Akumu Hussein and Barack Obama, Sr. (President Obama's paternal grandmother and his father as a young boy). Pictured in righthand photograph on cover: Stanley Dunham and Ann Dunham (President Obama's maternal grandfather and his mother as a young girl).[11]

Basis for characters

With the exception of family members and a handful of public figures, Barack Obama is open in the preface about using changed names for privacy reasons and composite characters to expedite the narrative flow.[12] Various researchers have suggested that the following characters are based on real people Obama knew:

Real life person Referred in the book as
Salim Al Nurridin Rafiq[13]
Margaret Bagby Mona[14]
Hasan Chandoo Hasan[15]
Earl Chew Marcus[16]
Frank Davis Frank[17]
Joella Edwards Coretta[18]
Pal Eldredge Mr. Eldredge[19]
Mabel Hefty Miss Hefty[20]
Loretta Herron Angela[21]
Emil Jones Old Ward Boss[22]
Keith Kakugawa Ray[23]
Jerry Kellman Marty[24]
Yvonne Lloyd Shirley[25]
Ronald Loui Frederick[26]
Greg Orme Scott[27]
Johnnie Owens Johnnie[28]
Sohale Siddiqi Sadik[15]
Mike Ramos Jeff[29]
Wally Whaley Smitty[30]


In discussing Dreams from My Father, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison has called Obama "a writer in my high esteem" and the book "quite extraordinary." She praised "his ability to reflect on this extraordinary mesh of experiences that he has had, some familiar and some not, and to really meditate on that the way he does, and to set up scenes in narrative structure, dialogue, conversation--all of these things that you don't often see, obviously, in the routine political memoir biography. [...] It's unique. It's his. There are no other ones like that."[31] In an interview for The Daily Beast, author Philip Roth said he had read Dreams from My Father "with great interests," and commented that he had found it "well done and very persuasive and memorable."[32]

The book "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician," wrote Time columnist Joe Klein.[33] In 2008, The Guardian's Rob Woodard wrote that Dreams from My Father "is easily the most honest, daring, and ambitious volume put out by a major US politician in the last 50 years."[34] Michiko Kakutani, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic for The New York Times, described it as "the most evocative, lyrical and candid autobiography written by a future president."[35]

The audio book edition earned Obama the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.[36]

Five days before being sworn in as President, Obama secured a $500,000 advance for an abridged version of "Dreams From My Father" for middle-school-aged children.[37]


  • New York: Times Books; 1st edition (July 18, 1995); Hardcover: 403 pages; ISBN 0-8129-2343-X
    • This printing is now very rare. Only a few signed copies are known, and are estimated to be worth up to $13,000 (depending on condition).[citation needed]
  • New York: Kodansha International (August 1996); Paperback: 403 pages; ISBN 1-5683-6162-9
  • New York: Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (August 10, 2004); Paperback: 480 pages; ISBN 1-4000-8277-3
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition (May 3, 2005); Audio CD; ISBN 0-7393-2100-5; Includes the senator's speech from the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
  • New York: Random House Audio; Abridged edition on Playaway digital audio player [38]
  • New York: Random House Large Print; 1st Large print edition (April 4, 2006); Hardcover: 720 pages; ISBN 0-7393-2576-0
  • New York: Crown Publishers (January 9, 2007); Hardcover: 464 pages; ISBN 0-3073-8341-5
  • New York: Random House (January 9, 2007); eBook; ISBN 0-3073-9412-3
  • Melbourne: Text Publishing (2008); Paperback: 442 pages; ISBN 978-1-921351-43-3
  • Chinese: The Dream Road of Obama : Yi Fu Chih Ming, translated by Yao-Hui Wang, Kuan-Lan Shih China Times Publishing Company, Taipei, Taiwan, (2008), ISBN 978-957-13-4926-8
  • Dutch: Dromen van mijn vader, translated by Joost Zwart, Atlas, (2007), ISBN 978-904-500-089-3
  • French: Les rêves de mon père, translated by Paris Presses De La Cité, Paris, France, (2008), ISBN 978-225-807-597-9
  • Hebrew: Ḥalomot me-avi, translated by Edna Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Israel, (2008), OCLC 256955212
  • Japanese: My Dream: An autobiography of Barack Obama (マイ・ドリーム: バラク・オバマ自伝?), translated by Yuuya Kiuchi, Mikiko Shirakura, (2007) ISBN 978-4478003626
  • Korean: Nae abŏji robutŏ ŭi kkum, translated by Kyŏng-sik Yi, Random House Korea, Seoul, Korea, (2007), ISBN 978-892-551-014-9
  • Spanish: Los sueños de mi padre : una historia de raza y herencia, Vintage Español, New York City, New York, (2009), ISBN 978-030-747-387-5
  • Swedish: Min far hade en dröm, Albert Bonniers förlag (2008), ISBN 9789100117283
  • German: "Ein amerikanischer Traum", Carl Hanser Verlag (2008), ISBN 9783446230217


  1. ^ Knapp, Kevin (July 5, 1995). "Alice Palmer to run for Reynolds' seat". Hyde Park Herald: p. 1. "Talk of who might replace Palmer, assuming she wins the race, has already begun. One front-runner might be Palmer-supporter Barack Obama, an attorney with a background in community organization and voter registration efforts. Obama, who has lived 'in and out' of Hyde Park for 10 years, is currently serving as chairman of the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Obama said that even though the election would be years away, 'I am seriously exploring that campaign.'" 
    Hevrdejs, Judy; Conklin, Mike (July 7, 1995). "Hevrdejs & Conklin INC.". Chicago Tribune: p. 20. Retrieved February 10, 2010. "Polpourri: . . . Barack Obama will announce he's running for the state Senate seat occupied by Alice Palmer, who's running for Reynolds' U.S. congressional seat. Obama, who has worked with Palmer, is an attorney at Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland and newly published author of Dreams from My Father." 
    Mitchell, Monica (August 23, 1995). "Son finds inspiration in the dreams of his father". Hyde Park Herald: p. 10. 
  2. ^ Butterfield, Fox (February 6, 1990). "First black elected to head Harvard's Law Review". The New York Times: p. A20. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Ybarra, Michael J (February 7, 1990). "Activist in Chicago now heads Harvard Law Review" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune: p. 3. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Matchan, Linda (February 15, 1990). "A Law Review breakthrough" (paid archive). The Boston Globe: p. 29. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Corr, John (February 27, 1990). "From mean streets to hallowed halls" (paid archive). The Philadelphia Inquirer: p. C01.,E&p_text_date-0=02/27/1990%20to%2002/27/1990)&p_field_advanced-0=Author&p_text_advanced-0=(John%20Corr)&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=_rank_:D&xcal_ranksort=4&xcal_useweights=yes. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Drummond, Tammerlin (March 12, 1990). "Barack Obama's Law; Harvard Law Review's first black president plans a life of public service" (paid archive). Los Angeles Times: p. E1. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Evans, Gaynelle (March 15, 1990). "Opening another door: The saga of Harvard's Barack H. Obama". Black Issues in Higher Education: p. 5. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Pugh, Allison J. (Associated Press) (April 18, 1990). "Law Review's first black president aims to help poor" (paid archive). The Miami Herald: p. C01.'s%20first%20black%20president%20aims%20to%20help%20poor)%20AND%20date(04/18/1990%20to%2004/18/1990)&p_field_date-0=YMD_date&p_params_date-0=date:B,E&p_text_date-0=04/18/1990%20to%2004/18/1990)&p_field_advanced-0=title&p_text_advanced-0=(Law%20Review's%20first%20black%20president%20aims%20to%20help%20poor)&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=_rank_:D&xcal_ranksort=4&xcal_useweights=yes. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Turow, Scott (March 30, 2004). "The new face of the Democratic Party—and America". Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Cader, Michael (July 30, 2004). "Publishers eyeing Obama". The New York Sun. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Leroux, Charles (August 6, 2004). "The buzz around Obama's book" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune: p. 1 (Tempo). Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Sweet, Lynn (March 17, 2005). "Be-bop, Barack and bucks from book" (paid archive). Chicago Sun-Times: p. 39.,E&p_text_date-0=3/17/2005%20to%203/17/2005)&p_field_advanced-0=title&p_text_advanced-0=(Be-bop)&p_bool_advanced-1=&p_field_advanced-1=&p_text_advanced-1=(%20Barack%20and%20bucks%20from%20book)&xcal_numdocs=20&p_perpage=10&p_sort=YMD_date:D&xcal_useweights=no. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Scott, Janny (May 18, 2008). "The story of Obama, written by Obama". The New York Times: p. A1. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  4. ^ Merida, Kevin (December 14, 2007). "The Ghost of a Father". Washington Post. Retrieved June 24, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Father's Abandonment Molded Obama". The Washington Post. December 14, 2007. Retrieved November 17, 2008. 
  6. ^ Mendell, David (October 22, 2004). "Barack Obama; Democrat for U.S. Senate; Catapulted into celebrity, the state senator from Hyde Park is seen as the voice of a new political generation, a leader for African-Americans and a devoted family man. But is it possible for anyone to meet all those expectations?" (paid archive). Chicago Tribune: p. 1 (Tempo). Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Kenneth T. (June 9, 2008). "Running on 'Aloha Spirit'; How growing up in Hawaii influences Obama's political beliefs". U.S. News & World Report: p. 16. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
    Calmes, Jackie (January 3, 2009). "On campus, Obama and memories". The New York Times: p. A11. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Obama (2004), pp. 93–94. see: Romano, Lois (January 3, 2007). "Effect of Obama's Candor Remains to Be Seen". Washington Post. Retrieved July 22, 2007. 
  9. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q (October 24, 2006). "Obama Offers More Variations From the Norm". New York Times. Retrieved July 22, 2007. 
  10. ^ a b c Barack Obama ’83. Is He the New Face of The Democratic Party? Columbia College Today.
  11. ^ "Q&A ON THE NEWS". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 25, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 
  12. ^ Obama, Barack. Dreams From My Father, pg. xvii. Three Rivers Press, New York City: 2004.
  13. ^ "Facing the reality of deprivation". Irish Times. January 23, 2009. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  14. ^ "The ascent of Barack Obama, Mr Charisma". The Sunday Times (London). March 23, 2008. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  15. ^ a b Goldman, Adam (May 18, 2008). "Old friends paint portrait of Obama as young man". Associated Press. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  16. ^ Helman, Scott (August 25, 2008). "Small college awakened future senator to service". Boston Globe. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  17. ^ Thanawala, Sudhin (August 3, 2008). "Advice dissent". Chicago Sun-Times.,CST-NWS-ment03.article. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  18. ^ Calmes, Jackie (January 3, 2009). "On Campus, Obama and Memories". New York Times. Retrieved June 4, 2009. 
  19. ^ Hoover, Will (February 11, 2007). "Obama's declaration stirs thrills at Punahou". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ Essoyan, Susan (July 27, 2008). "A teacher's Hefty influence". Honolulu Star-Bulletin. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  21. ^ Springen, Karen (November 5, 2008). "They knew him when: First impressions of Barack Obama". Newsweek. Retrieved September 19, 2000. 
  22. ^ Wills, Christopher (April 1, 2008). "Obama's 'godfather' an old-school Chicago politician". Associated Press. Retrieved September 19, 2009. 
  23. ^ Tapper, Jack (April 3, 2008). "Life of Obama's Childhood Friend Takes Drastically Different Path". ABC News. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  24. ^ Littwin, Mike (August 29, 2007). "Obama's 'change' could be more than a coined phrase". Rocky Mountain News.,1299,DRMN_86_5684916,00.html. Retrieved December 12, 2008. 
  25. ^ Sweet, Lynn (February 20, 2007). "Obama's research memo--on himself". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  26. ^ Ramos, Connie (2008). "Our Friend Barry: Classmates' Recollections of Barack Obama and Punahou School". 
  27. ^ Scharnberg, Kirsten (March 25, 2007). "The not-so-simple story of Barack Obama's youth". Chicago Tribune.,0,3864722.story. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  28. ^ Lakshmanan, Indira A.R. (July 3, 2008). "Obama Draws On Lessons From Chicago Streets to Propel Campaign". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  29. ^ Boylan, Peter (December 24, 2008). "Obama Tries to Escape in Hawaii". Time Magazine.,8599,1868623,00.html. Retrieved June 5, 2009. 
  30. ^ Jorgensen, Laurel (December 28, 2006). "Ill. barber shop of Ali, Obama must move: Hyde Park Hair Salon will have to relocate after 80 years of business". Charleston Daily Mail. Retrieved June 6, 2009. 
  31. ^ Ulaby, Neda (December 10, 2008). "Toni Morrison On Bondage And A Post-Racial Age". Tell Me More. NPR. Retrieved January 21, 2009. 
  32. ^ Brown, Tina (October 30, 2009). "Philip Roth Unbound: Interview Transcript". The Daily Beast. Retrieved December 27, 2009. 
  33. ^ Klein, Joe (October 23, 2006). "The Fresh Face". Time.,9171,1546362-1,00.html. Retrieved October 19, 2006. 
  34. ^ "Books Blog: Presidents who write well, lead well", The Guardian, November 5, 2008. Retrieved on November 8, 2008.
  35. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (January 18, 2009). "From Books, President-elect Barack Obama Found His Voice". The New York Times. Retrieved January 19, 2009. 
  36. ^ Joan Lowy, Presidential Hopefuls Publishing Books (Page 2), Washington Post, December 12, 2006
  37. ^ Obama Secures $500,000 Book Advance, UPI, March 19, 2009
  38. ^ [1]

See also


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