I’ve been thinking of reading this for awhile, but I finally picked it up when I was in Ontario a few weeks ago and had already read my “trip” book. I couldn’t face the flight back without a nice, long, juicy book, so the U.S. President’s memoir kind of ended up in my hands.
I didn’t realize before I read it what a personal book it is, as well as how thoughtful, literate and completely readable. I was riveted and read through it really quickly.
The book was written long before Obama embarked on a political career (though probably not before he thought of one — people are usually planning that sort of thing a long time before it actually happens) and I think it’s a better and more honest book because it’s written by someone who wasn’t really in the public eye or running for political office at the time he wrote it.
It’s a very thoughtful reflection on one young man’s experience of growing up in an interracial, multicultural family. Obama explores what it meant to grow up as a black man, yet one who was raised by his white mother and grandparents, while his African father was a distant and absent enigma. The insights into what race means within American culture and how racial, ethnic and cultural identities are constructed are intriguing, and definitely show the kind of depth of thought that we’d all like to see more of in world leaders, I believe.
It’s particularly interesting to read about Obama’s early years from the perspective of knowing how the story turned out — it really does give one that sense of “every little boy can grow up to be President of the United States” or, at any rate, the sense that truly extraordinary things can be accomplished by people who, in their youth, are just as confused, unsure and capable of failure as the rest of us. No matter what you think of Obama’s politics I would think most people would find that aspect of his journey inspiring.