Saturday, June 3, 2017

Bad Book: What Will We Remember About Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father?

Aside from Obamacare, I think Barack Obama is best known for his book, Dreams from My Father.
This book was extremely important to his early political career in Chicago. Over time, many people took the book literally and it became a way for people to learn about Obama in such a matter that it empowered him. Many charismatic leaders write books about themselves which end up building their own fame and charisma including George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, and John F. Kennedy.

This is part of the reason why there is so much intellectual controversy surrounding Dreams from My Father right now, particularly arguments about the extent to which it is historically accurate or is only a historical novel.

To a large extent, I think that presidential historians are coming to the conclusion that the book for which Barack Obama is best know was in large measure a carefully crafted fiction. It included a number of stories in which Barack Obama tried to exaggerate his ties to the African-American community, including claiming he dated black women, which subsequent research has found to be untrue.

According to David J. Garrow’s new book, Rising Star, it appears that Dreams from My Father overstated the closeness of Obama’s parents, understated the time he spend with Frank Marshall Davis, and minimized young Obama’s post-Columbia marijuana and cocaine usage. There are also indications that the young Obama was quite concerned about his weight since he was fat as a child.

All in all, I think that Dreams from My Father will remain as one of the most important of Obama’s legacies, especially since subsequent research has found that much of this first book was highly inaccurate even as it help to form a myth that helped Barack Obama become president.

John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.

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