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Book Club Wed Oct 03 2007

Dreams from My Father Discussion Questions

Here are some sample questions for you to think about before our discussion coming up this Monday, October 8. If you have not yet finished the book, beware of possible spoilers. Yes, even nonfiction works can have spoilers. If you cannot join us on Monday, please share your thoughts about the book in the comments!

1. Why do you think Obama begins his memoir with him learning of his father's death?

2. How does his father's absence from much of his life affect Obama?

3. When Obama's father visits him in Hawaii, how does the man compare to Obama's prior image of him?

4. Why did he title the first section of the book "Origins"?

5. What roles did his other family members play in shaping Obama's youth, especially his grandparents, mother and stepfather?

6. In the first section of the book, Obama writes, "I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere." How does he "slip back and forth" between his worlds, and is he ever successful at making them cohere?

7. As a child, how does Obama come to learn about the existence of racism?

8. Why does Obama decide to become a community organizer?

9. What problems does he encounter in the Altgeld Gardens project? What factors does he talk about that contribute to these problems?

10. What successes do Obama and his group achieve in Chicago?

11. What does he learn during his years as a community organizer?

12. How does the visit from his sister Auma affect Obama's understanding of and attitude towards his father?

13. When Obama visits Trinity church, he picks up a brochure that makes a distinction between "middleincomeness" and "middleclassness." What is meant by those terms, and why is the distinction important? Why do you think Obama includes this?

14. What does he mean by the phrase "the audacity of hope"?

15. Why does he decide to go to Harvard law school?

16. When Obama goes to Kenya, what does he learn about his father's family?

17. How is his relationship with his African family the same or different from his relationship with his American family?

18. About his stay in Kenya, Obama writes that he felt that "a sense that everything i was doing, every touch and breath and word, carried the full weight of my life; that a circle was beginning to close, that I might finally recognize myself as I was, here, now, in one place." What does he mean by this?

19. How does his trip to Kenya change him?

20. Why do you think he titled the book Dreams from My Father? What dreams does he feel he received from his father? How did these dreams shape him?

21. Bonus question: Some editions of the book include Obama's keynote address from the 2004 Democratic Convention. How do the themes in that speech reflect the themes in his memoir?

Note: Many of these questions are borrowed or adapted from the excellent discussion guide for this book created by the Truman College library.Thank you.

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Harriet Gould / January 28, 2009 12:21 PM

Thanks for providing this excellent resource. Our newly established Book Club will be using this resource. Thank you!

lolaaaa / September 8, 2009 8:30 PM

this is a really good resource, thanks so much for this!!!

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