Having presided over a tumultuous eight-year administration, we eagerly anticipate the post-presidential memoir of Barrack Obama. A two-term tenure defined by ground-breaking campaign fervour, doggedly pursued health care reform and divisive foreign policy, Mr. Obama will certainly not find himself scavenging for chapter titles. In the meantime, Obama’s first autobiographical effort makes for a riveting read; a warm liberal hug in the context of an increasingly withdrawn, Trumpish America.
As executive forces endeavour to plug borders and extradite multiculturalism at large, Obama’s first book stands as a testament to antithetical values; those which embody the essence of the American Spirit. In the aptly named Dreams of My Father, a community organiser and prospective politician traces the root of his character, and composition of his identity as a mixed-raced American. Obama’s introspection is evocative of youthful questions of identity; pursuits of understanding, identity and, ultimately, purpose. The work is both a deeply personal parley and, importantly, a proposition: that the battle to resolve such fundamental – and perhaps unanswerable – uncertainty is best fought in the sphere of community. It is in such a binary that America now finds itself ensnared, self-vs-community. In a climate defined by austerity, discrimination and identity crisis, it is more important than ever that Americans heed Obama’s calls for introspection and cooperation, and that this, the latter, forms the bedrock of American identity.
In navigating such fundamental questions, Obama champions a diverse heritage. At the culmination of years of introspection, he comes to regard his own character, and inability to satisfy a deep-seated curiosity with an understanding of identity that ultimately remains ambiguous, as an inheritance of an exceptional diversity. Travelling to Kenya to pursue his roots, Obama uncovers his own father’s quest for identity; a pursuit engendered by the effort of his father before him. Indeed, Obama’s unique lineage makes for a much-needed tribute to diversity. But the quest itself, the experience of a both ordinary and extraordinary American, as he navigates the discriminations and contradictions that continue to alienate the American, is perhaps most important.