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Dreams From My Father Essay Topics

Abbott, Philip. States of Perfect Freedom: Autobiography and American Political Thought. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1987.

Adell, Sandra. Double-Consciousness/Double Bind: Theoretical Issues in Twentieth-Century Black Literature. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1994. 56-89.

Andrews, William L. ed. African American Autobiography: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1993.

Asante, Molefi Kete. “Barack Obama and the Dilemma of Power: An Afrological Observation.” Journal of Black Studies 38.1 (2007): 105-15.

Atwater, Deborah F. “Senator Barack Obama: The Rhetoric of Hope and the American Dream.” Journal of Black Studies 38.2 (2007): 121-29.

Austin, Algernon. Achieving Blackness: Race, Black Nationalism, and Afrocentrism in the Twentieth Century. New York: New York UP, 2006.

Baldwin, James. “The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American.” Morrison, Collected Essays. 137-42.

---. “Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter from the South.” 1961. Morrison, Collected Essays. 197-208.

Banita, Georgiana. "'Home Squared': Barack Obama's Transnational Self-Reliance."Biography33.1 (2010): 24-45.

---. “Notes of a Native Son.” 1951. Morrison, Collected Essays. 63-84.

Benstock, Shari, ed. The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women’s Autobiographical Writings. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1988.

Callahan, John F., ed. The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison. New York: Modern Library, 1995.

Chinosole. African Diaspora and Autobiographics: Skeins of Skin and Self. New York: Lang, 2001.

Cone, James H. Martin and Malcolm and America: A Dream or a Nightmare. Maryknoll: Orbis, 1991.

Crouch, Stanley. “What Obama Isn’t: Black like Me on Race.” New York Daily News. 2 Nov. 2006. <http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2006/11/02/2006-11-02_what_ obama_isnt_black_like_me_on_race.html>.

Daley, James, ed. Great Speeches by African Americans: Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Barack Obama, and Others. Mineola: Dover, 2006.

Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader. Ed. Eric J. Sundquist. New York: Oxford UP, 1996. 97-240.

Dudley, David L. My Father’s Shadow: Intergenerational Conflict in African American Men’s Autobiography. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1991.

Eakin, Paul John. “Malcolm X and the Limits of Autobiography.” Andrews 151-61.

Early, Gerald, ed. Lure and Loathing: Essays on Race, Identity, and the Ambivalence of Assimilation. New York: Lane/Penguin, 1993.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. New York: Random, 1982.

---. “The Little Man at Chehaw Station: The American Artist and His Audience.” 1977/78. Callahan 489-519.

---. “The World and the Jug.” 1964. Callahan 155-88.

Frank, David A., and Mark Lawrence McPhail. “Barack Obama’s Address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention: Trauma, Compromise, Consilience, and the (Im)Possibility of Racial Reconciliation.” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 8.4 (2005): 571-94.

Franklin, V.P. Living Our Stories, Telling Our Truths: Autobiography and the Making of the African-American Intellectual Tradition. New York: Oxford UP, 1995.

Fraser, Carly. “Race, Post-Black Politics, and the Democratic Presidential Candidacy of Barack Obama.” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 11.1 (2009): 17-40.

Gaines, Ernest J. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. 1971. New York: Bantam, 1972.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford UP, 1988.

Harris, Fredrick. “Towards a Pragmatic Black Politics?” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 11.1 (2009): 41-49.

Harrison, Maureen, and Steve Gilbert, eds. Barack Obama: Speeches 2002-2006. Carlsbad: Excellent, 2007.

Hill, Rickey. “The Race Problematic, the Narrative of Malcolm Luther King Jr., and the Election of Barack Obama.” Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 11.1 (2009): 60-78.

Hollinger, David A. “Obama, the Instability of Color Lines, and the Promise of a Postethnic Future.” Callaloo 31.4 (2008): 1033-37.

Hurston, Zora Neale. “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” I Love Myself when I Am Laughing… and then again when I am Looking Mean and Impressive: A Zora Neale Hurston Reader. Ed. Alice Walker. New York: Feminist Press, 1975. 152-55.

James, Stanlie M. “Barack Obama: Coalitions of a Purple Mandate.” Souls: A Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 11.1 (2009): 51-59.

Kelleter, Frank. Con/Tradition: Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, the Million Man March, and American Civil Religion. Heidelberg: Winter, 2000.

---. “Ethnic Self-Dramatization and Technologies of Travel in The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself (1789).” Early American Literature 39.1 (2004): 67-84.

Kelley, Robin D.G. Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. Boston: Beacon, 2002.

King, Martin Luther, Jr. “I Have a Dream.” 1963. Daley 111-14.

Malcolm X, as told to Alex Haley. The Autobiography of Malcolm X. New York: Grove, 1965.

Marable, Manning. “Racializing Obama: The Enigma of Post-Black Politics and Leadership.” Souls: A Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society 11.1 (2009): 1-15.

Mastey, David. "Slumming and/as Self-Making in Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father" Journal of Black Studies 40.3 (2010): 484-501.

Morrison, Toni, ed. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. New York: Library of America, 1998.

Obama, Barack. The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. New York: Crown, 2006.

---. “Democratic Nominee Acceptance Speech.” Chicago 28 Aug. 2008. Rpt. Inspire a Nation: Barack Obama’s Most Electrifying Speeches from Day One of His Campaign through His Inauguration. Ed. Jaclyn Easton. Publishing 180, 2009. 120-37.

---. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. 1995. New York: Crown, 2004.

---. “The Great Need of the Hour.” Atlanta 20 Jan. 2008. Rpt. Olive 238-44.

---. “Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.” Boston 27 July 2004. Rpt. Olive 98-104.

---. “A More Perfect Union.” Philadelphia 18 March 2008. Rpt. Olive 255-69.

---. “Remarks of President-Elect Barack Obama: Election Night.” Chicago 4 Nov. 2008. Rpt. Olive 318-23.

Ogbar, Jeffrey O.G. Black Power: Radical Politics and African American Identity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2004.

Olive, David, ed. An American Story: The Speeches of Barack Obama. Toronto: ECW, 2009.

Pinckney, Darryl. “Dreams from Obama.” New York Review of Books 55.3 (2008) <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21063>.

---. “Obama and the Black Church.” New York Review of Books. 55.12 (2008). <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21611>.

Posnock, Ross. Color and Culture: Black Writers and the Making of the Modern Intellectual. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.

Rushdy, Ashraf H.A. Neo-Slave Narratives: Studies in the Logic of a Literary Form. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Samuels, David. “Invisible Man: How Ralph Ellison Explains Barack Obama.” New Republic 22 Oct. 2008. http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=5c263e1d-d75d-4af9-a1d7-5cb761500092

Smallwood, Christine. “Back Talk: Toni Morrison.” Nation 19 Nov. 2008. <http://www.thenation.com/doc/20081208/smallwood2.>

Steele, Shelby. A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can’t Win. New York: Free Press, 2008.

Stein, Daniel. “The Things that Jes’ Grew? The Blues ‘I’ and African American Autobiographies.” Interdisciplinary Humanities 23.2 (2006): 43-54.

---. “Walter Mosley’s RL’s Dream and the Creation of a Bluetopian Community.” Finding a Way Home: A Critical Assessment of Walter Mosley’s Fiction. Ed. Derek C. Maus and Owen E. Brady. Jackson: UP of Mississippi 2008. 3-17.

Tóibín, Colm. “James Baldwin and Barack Obama.” New York Review of Books 55.16 (2008). http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21930.

Walters, Ron. “Barack Obama and the Politics of Blackness.” Journal of Black Studies 38.7 (2007): 7-29.

Washington, Booker T. “Atlanta Exposition Address.” 1895. Daley 81-84.

West, Cornel. Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America. 1993. New York: Routledge, 1994.

Wright, Richard. Black Boy: A Record of Childhood and Youth. New York: Harper’s, 1945.

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Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, by Barack Obama, published August 1996


(Click for Amazon book review)

BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:

This is the book to read if you want to understand Obama's personal background and how it forms his character. It was written while he was still only an obscure State Senator -- written in his spare time, without a ghost writer, while struggling to make ends meet on a state senator's salary. Therefore it is an honest portrait, made before Obama even intended to run for US Senate, much less for President.

Here I'll discuss one aspect of Obama's background, which is his internationalism. I'm writing this shortly after Obama returned from his "campaign trip" abroad, which included fact-finding in Iraq and drawing a crowd of 200,000 fans in Germany. While the mainstream press was overwhelmingly enamored with Obama on that trip, it has become clear upon Obama's return that the voting public has not responded nearly as positively. Obama's popularity abroad relates to Obama's international upbringing, as outlined in this book.

Obama spent several years of his childhood living abroad -- four years in Indonesia. In addition, he maintains contact with his paternal family in Kenya (where, during his 2007 visit, he also was greeted as a hero). And his birthplace and home of his grandparents and half-sister is Hawaii, argualy the most international of the fifty states.

The question for the presidential race is this: Does Obama's personal experience living abroad count as foreign policy expertise? I would say Yes; but the voting public has declared No. In other words, McCain's argument that Obama has no foreign policy expertise has prevailed.

I would say Yes, because I personally have a similar experience as Obama, and I consider that a valid basis for claiming foreign policy expertise. I've resided in Denmark, Hong Kong, and Israel, for 6 to 12 months each; I've traveled to more than 40 countries and spent a total of about 4 or 5 years abroad; I've been in relationships with women living in Pakistan, Denmark, and Hong Kong. I do consider that I have substantial foreign policy expertise, entirely on the basis of that personal experience.

To illustrate why that qualifies me as a foreign policy expert, I'll relate my experience in a class on foreign policy at the Master's degree level at Harvard University in the early 1990s. I attended an introductory class on foreign policy with the intent of concentrating in that field. But I found that my fellow students had relatively little knowledge of world politics -- despite that most had just graduated from foreign policy undergraduate institutions. For example, we discussed Japan's relations with its neighbors, and my fellow students suggested that Japan should be be creating a trading bloc (like ASEAN or NAFTA) with China, Korea, and Russia, its nearest neighbors. It was obvious to me that Japan could never do such a thing, because the Koreans await an apology for WWII enslavement; the Chinese await reparations for the "Rape of Nanjing"; and the Russians await resolution of the disputed Kuril Islands. I knew those things first-hand from Japanese co-workers in Hong Kong, who were reluctant to visit those areas with me. My classmates knew little about those sort of "facts on the ground," and I ended up switching my field of concentration to the more experience-oriented "International Development".

Obama is an internationalist. That means, not only does he believe in globalization as an economic and military policy, but he is accustomed to presenting himself abroad as an American -- which most Americans are not. America is an isolated country -- unless we go out of our way to travel abroad and experience it intimately, we don't participate in the rest of the world. The consequence of that isolation is that we don't deeply understand foreigners' points of view. Internationalist Americans DO understand foreigners -- and foreigners are well-aware of distinguishing internationalist Americans from our more isolated brethren. Obama's massive crowd of supporters in Germany was an acknowledgement from the Germans that they recognize Obama as an internationalist. The press' enthrallment with Obama on his foreign trip was because the press saw that other foreigners recognized that too, and assumed it would translate to popularity at home.

But most Americans are not internationalists. The press got it wrong because they only reported on what foreigners felt -- while foreigners don't vote in the US presidential election. Obama thought he would be seen on this trip as Presidential -- but in fact his popularity abroad was seen as just another way in which Obama differs from most Americans, because most Americans are not internationalist. Hence Obama's trip abroad was seen as elitist by most American voters -- not as evidence of foreign policy expertise, even though it WAS seen that way abroad.

I consider myself an internationalist too. But I acknowledge that I'm in a small minority among my countrymen. My internationalist background certainly colors all of my politics -- for example, I said, "Oh, look," upon watching the debates for the French presidency, "Sarkozy descends from Hungarian nobility," an obvious fact to anyone who has traveled to Hungary and has learned their nomenclature system -- "and therefore as an internationalist he's sincere in his positive view toward reaching out to America." But usually I shut up about the origins of my political philosophy, because I don't want to be seen as elitist.

How does all that affect the presidential election? Well, Obama better shut up about his internationalism too, or he'll alienate most Americans by seeming elitist. And, although any internationalist would certainly grant Obama the lead over McCain in relevant foreign policy expertise, the American voting public will not. Therefore Obama needs to pick a Vice President who has more conventional foreign policy expertise, to counter McCain's attacks on this front.

Just my prediction --

-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, Aug. 2008

Click here for 16 full quotes from Barack Obama in the book Dreams from My Father.
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