Barack Obama
Dreams From My Father
Book Review by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony

I'm just sixty-five pages in and feel compelled to write a review already. Could it be that I've gotten myself caught up in the Obama giddiness spreading across these United States? Practically speaking, I'm excited about the ways teachers could use this book to inspire kids across America.

Sixty-five pages in and Barack is still telling stories of his youth. What a gold mine! Here's the true story of a misfit kid whose father leaves the family with only smoky anecdotes. The boy is bounced from town to town (country to country actually) -- each time having to find how he fits in or doesn't. Being introduced to a new stepfather of sorts and then left to navigate that loss as well. The story is more exotic for sure, with its fascinating world adventures, than that of the average American kid -- but the central struggle is the same. These pages are an American child's search for identity, self-confidence, sense, stability, understanding of his surroundings, struggle to fit in, plight for new friends and a reoccurring fascination with a distant father. These are the concerns of so many children. How better to get them interested in history, reading, social studies than to introduce them to sections of this book? How better to reassure them that they are not alone in their struggles and that successes are still very possible -- just look at little Barry Obama, he even became president of the United States!

No need to assign the whole book, you wouldn't want to intimidate any struggling readers. The chapters are about 25 pages and stand on their own - a nice chunk for upper level kids. For younger students, pick a small encounter that winds up in a page or two or three. For instance, on page 35, Barack tells the story of getting bullied by other kids. He goes home with a bump on the noggin after taking a rock toss to the head. Lolo, his Indonesian father figure, pulls out some boxing gloves and the two spar. By page 36 Barack remembers other lessons of that age and place:

"I raised my arms, throwing soft jabs at Lolo's palms, glancing up at him every so often and realizing how familiar his face had become... I had survived chicken pox, measles, and the sting of my teachers' bamboo switches. The children of farmers, servants, and low-level bureaucrats had become my best friends, and together we ran the streets morning and night, hustling odd jobs, catching crickets, battling swift kites with razor-sharp lines -- the loser watched his kite soar off with the wind... With Lolo, I learned how to eat small green chili peppers raw... dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy)."

Subtitled "A Story of Race and Inheritance" the book is nicely written, open, and draws the reader in. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.

Update: Finished the book last month. I quite enjoyed Barack's story telling tone. The book feels much more like a dramatic novel than an autobiography. It could have used a graphical "family tree" as reference to his several chapters on the Kenya visit. That would make keeping track of his many brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles a lot easier. Though interesting, the last twenty pages feel very tacked on, less warm, and serve merely to bring us up to speed on his life since the writing of the book and hammer home his political phylosophy. Even still, I wouldn't classify the book itself as a political work -- again, it's just a good story of man's search for identity as told by a standing US president.

Read more Book Reviews by Author/Illustrator Ross Anthony.

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Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 29-Feb-2012 10:58:22 PST