I highly recommend Barack Obama’s autobiography, Dream from My Father. Damn, it’s good.
I’ve never heard of somebody wanting to grow up and be a community organizer – I mean, what does a community organizer DO anyway? Apparently they really do find a place where people need a voice and direction to make change to improve the lives of the people in that community (Obama started with Altgeld Gardens, a housing project in Chicago, and ended with the United States of America!)
Obama is a great writer. Through the whole book my English teacher mind kept looking for over-the-top clichés and sentimental rhetoric – and I couldn’t find any. Obama took the time, luckily before he considered going into politics, to think about his life in context of his family, small and large, and to examine his choices and the choices his parents and grandparents made before him, in a a deliberate and thoughtful manner.
We’re not that far away from Jim Crow; a man who is half-black in this country deals with black issues more than he deals with white ones – and it’s fascinating to read about somebody as smart and as poetic as Obama making his way through life trying to figure things out.
You get to hear the nitty-gritty about his childhood in Jakarta with pet alligators in the backyard, his teenage years experimenting with dope and booze (no pert skirting around the issue about not inhaling), and how he basically runs off to college as an afterthought (Occidental College in Pasedena), and how he ends up at Columbia practically by accident.
Strong story-telling is satisfyingly weighted with lyrical philosophical musing about hard questions (When is it right to help people who don’t appear to want to be helped?) and looking through this book again right now, is making me want to read it a second time.
I look forward to reading the Audacity of Hope. I am psyched our president is such a smart and well-intentioned guy.
I think I want to be a community organizer too.