This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Barack Obama's Dreams From My Father.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama, begins with news of Barack's father’s death. The news is given to him by his Aunt Jane in a telephone call from Nairobi. His late father, Barack Obama Sr, had left him and his mother in Hawaii, when Barack was just two years old.


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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama, begins with news of Barack's father’s death. The news is given to him by his Aunt Jane in a telephone call from Nairobi. His late father, Barack Obama Sr, had left him and his mother in Hawaii, when Barack was just two years old.

He doesn't dwell on the tragic news, instead turning his attention to introducing his mother, Ann Dunham, his grandmother Madelyn Lee Payne, whom he calls Toot in the book, and his grandfather Stanley Armour Dunham, whom he calls Gramps.

He speaks of the racism they faced as a result of Ann's relationship with Barack Sr. They had both met at Hawaii University and got married. The younger Barack was the only child they had, but Barack Sr had several other children and extended family in Kenya.

After his mother divorces his father, she falls in love with an Indonesian student, called Lolo, and decides to move to his country to live with him. Gramps tries to find where exactly on the map Lolo lives, saying he remembers Indonesian island names from reading Joseph Conrad as a boy.

Within a few years, at the age of 10, Barack was on the way back to Hawaii, sent by his mother, who had decided she wants her son to have an American education.

He talks about his early days in school, hearing monkey noises when he tells his teacher that his father is Kenyan, from the Luo tribe. "My sense that I didn't belong continued to grow."

His father decides to visit him in Hawaii for Christmas. And during the stay, he gives him some gifts—a basketball and some African figurines. And teaches him how to dance.

His father also decides to visit his school and give a talk in the class which the younger Barack had dreaded but had actually gone quite well, he recalls. He spoke of Africa, Kenya and British colonialism, among other subjects.

One of his enduring memories of his father is his voice, which he describes as being "deep and sure, cajoling and laughing", having "the seed of all sorts of tangled arguments that I carry on with myself". He adds: "It fascinated me, this strange power of his."

By the time he is 11, Barack's mother returns from Indonesia with a new daughter, Maya. They all live with Ann's parents.

Over the next few years, Barack develops friendship with other children and learns more about race relations through his interactions with people like Ray, Frank and Malik. He tries to figure out where he stands, what his own thoughts and opinions about race relations are.

At the same time, he decides he wants to make the local basketball teams. "I could play basketball with a consuming passion that would always exceed my limited talent," he writes. "By the time I reached high school, I was playing on Punahou’s teams, and could take my game to the university courts."

There then follows some time when Barack talks about marijuana having helped him forget about some of his troubles. He introduces more people in the book, including Regina, and Marcus.

“Sister Regina,” Marcus says at one point. “You know Barack, don’t you? I’m trying to tell Brother Barack here about this racist tract he’s reading.” He held up a copy of Heart of Darkness.

Regina asks why he is reading it, and Barack replies "because the book teaches me things. About white people, I mean. See, the book’s not really about Africa. Or black people. It’s about the man who wrote it. The European. The American. A particular way of looking at the world. If you can keep your distance, it’s all there, in what’s said and what’s left unsaid. So I read the book to help me understand just what it is that makes white people so afraid. Their demons. The way ideas get twisted around. It helps me understand how people learn to hate.”

The book then switches location to New York, where Barack goes to stay at a pre-arranged flat. However, he misses out on the flat and ends up calling a guy called Sadik, who is the only person he knows in New York, and they end up renting an apartment together.

He gives up dope, runs three miles a day, fasts on Sundays and applies himself to his studies. He writes to his father, inviting him to visit him. He dreams about him, a lucid dream, weeps in his dream and wakes up still weeping.

At age 22, he decides to become a community organiser. "That’s what I’ll do, I’ll organize black folks. At the grass roots. For change."

But he initially found a job as a financial writer and one day when he was working at his computer, he got a call from a sister he had never met. Auma was her name and she was studying in Germany. She wanted to visit him and made arrangements, only to call a few weeks later to say that she couldn't come after all because their brother David—another sibling in Kenya that Barack had never met—had died.

After some time, Barack was offered a job by Marty Kaufman as a community organiser for a group called Developing Communities Project, in Chicago.

Once there, he throws himself into his work with determination. His specific role includes the mobilisation of local churches of all backgrounds. But he is up against a wall of cynicism.

One black church leader tells him they are not interested in "Catholic churches and Jewish organisers", adding that "the archdiocese in this city is run by stone-cold racists".

"I sat there, roasting like a pig on a spit," writes Obama.

The deprivation and hardship of the area is described in detail, particularly the Altgeld Gardens Housing Project. Also, he introduces people he works with as well as other community workers.

Obama's dedication to his job prompts his manager, Marty, to suggest he takes more time to build a life outside his work.

It is probably this advice that leads to his finally meeting his sister, Auma, who visits him in Chicago. She tells Barack about the family he has back in Kenya. "The old man used to talk about you so much," she tells him, adding that they need to go back to Kenya to see him, his grave.

Around this time, Obama enjoys some success in his work, making more connections and attracting more support. He becomes involved in a controversy about asbestos in a local residential building, gets some television coverage about the issue; he deals with other housing and education issues; and manages to arrange for Mayor Harold Washington to attend the opening ceremony of the MET intake centre.

Before he takes up his studies, Barack decides to visit his family in Kenya, where Auma greets him. Over the course of several weeks, he meets and gets to know numerous members of his family. He listens to his grandmother's stories about how they all came to be where they are. He also goes on safari, which Auma finds an offensive throwback to colonialism. Barack himself writes about colonialism.

He also writes about finally seeing his father's grave. Ray takes him to the mango tree, beneath which his father and grandfather are buried. His father's grave is not marked with his name.

In the epilogue he describes studying law, mentions the passing away of his grandfather, and Michelle’s mother.

And he talks about his engagement and marriage to Michelle, with whom he visits Kenya again.

He ends with the line: "I felt like the luckiest man alive."

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