Friday, December 16, 2005

Baracking the World


After watching him tour the Astrodome in Houston, I decided to finally take a sip of the Barack Obama kool-aid and read his memoir, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

I am particularly averse to politicians, so I have resisted the hype about Senator Obama "Baracking the World" ever since the world fell in love with him after his 2004 Democratic National convention speech.

That said, the book was better than I expected: very thoughtful, well-written and, for the most part, free from that political drone that sounds the death knell on many a book by a politician. In one anecdote about his mother, Ann Dunham, the senator related a story about she and a sister, Maya, visiting him in New York just before he moved to Chicago to become a community organizer. His mother noticed an ad in the Village Voice for the now classic film Black Orpheus and insisted upon Barack and Maya coming with her to see it.

About halfway through the movie, I decided that I'd seen enough,and turned to my mother to see if she might be ready to go. Buther face, lit by the blue glow of the screen, was set in a wistful gaze. At that moment, I felt as if I were being given a window into her heart, the unreflective heart of her youth. I suddenly realized that the depiction of childlike blacks I was now seeing on the screen, the reverse image of Conrad's dark savages, was what my mother had carried with her to Hawaii all those years before, a reflection of the simple fantasies that had been forbidden to a white, middle-class girl from Kansas, the promise of another life: warm, sensual, exotic, different.

This observation, along with other exchanges, made me want to hear more about his mother. Perhaps his next book will let us know more about her, because she was just as interesting as his father, Barack Obama, Sr. Along with his law school experience, that was the only thing I thought was missing from the book.

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