Summary outline: Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
October 17, 2014
Barack Obama’s, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (2004), begins with a preface summarizing the time between the book’s two publication dates. He explains that whilst pursuing a degree in law, he wrote the story of his family. He talks about moving on from the experience of becoming a published author to that of a law professor in Chicago, a husband, and a father, and then a state senator. I find it interesting that Obama’s earlier experience of writing about the different racial and ethnic backgrounds of his family prior to him becoming a senator, preceded his run for the senate in a district in which he garnered votes from people from various racial backgrounds. The introduction continues with the revelation that Obama’s story includes that of travel from an early age to places that later would be associated with turmoil. He makes parallel’s between the lives of kids growing up in disadvantaged communities in other countries, and those who grow up in impoverished communities right here in the United States. The preface concludes with a recollection and tribute to his deceased mother.
The book is dived into chapters, but the chapters are grouped into the following sections: “Origins,” ” Chicago,” “Kenya,” “Epilogue,” and finally, “The Audacity of Hope.”
In this part of the introduction, Barack Obama details his family background on his mother’s side. He describes his mother’s side of the family as growing up in Kansas, a state that fought on the side of the Union. He describes his grandmother and her family as being temperate. But his grandfather was an adventurer who moved around a lot, joined the war after the bombing of Pear Harbor, and returned to enter Berkeley, only to leave shortly thereafter to raise a young family while working as a salesman. Obama says of his grandfather, “One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandfather’s shoulders as the astronauts from one of the Apollo missions arrived at Hickam Air Force Base after a successful splashdown. I remember the astronauts, in aviator glasses, as being far away, barely visible through the portal of an isolation chamber. But Gramps would always swear that one of the astronauts waved just at me and that I waved back. It was part of the story he told himself. With his black son-in-law and his brown grandson, Gramps had entered the space age,” (23). This quotation illustrates Stanley Dunham’s futuristic outlook on life.
Chapters One through Four
Obama’s parents, Stanley Ann and Barack Obama, marry and the future President is born a short time later in Hawaii. After the family is separated, Barry lives in Hawaii with his mother and maternal grandparents. Several years pass. His mother re-marries and Barry and his mother join his new step-father, Lolo, in Indonesia. Barry is introduced to a different lifestyle marked by the aftermath of intense political strife. But he learns how to survive. He is exposed to a a stratified society. His mother works, and she and he become aware of the privileged position they hold as American citizens, while Lolo struggles to move up in society due to being pigeon-holed due to corrupt officials. His mother gives birth to a daughter, Maya, and Barry is sent, shortly there after, to live with grandparents in Hawaii and to attend a prestigious grade school. Adjusting to the new school environment takes time. While in Indonesia, Barry studied at Indonesian schools. Back in the United States, he is made aware of his difference. In this section, it is clear that the experience in Indonesia forged Obama’s American identity. He learned to empathize with those who had less than he had, but he also learned self-reliance as a coping strategy. He saw his step-father struggle, due, in part, to being outside of elite circles.
My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor (2013)
Prepare short-answer essays to the prompts below. Use your notebook and your text books as resources. This assignment is due by Tuesday, Oct. 28th, 11:59 PM. Upload your responses to CANVAS in a Microsoft Word document.
This is a typical college-level assignment. Therefore, you are expected to treat this as a formal take-home essay assignment. You are also free to form a study group with your classmates to review this study guide prior to uploading this document to CANVAS. This document is divided into sections according to chapters in order to facilitate understanding of the material.
Note: Throughout the below text “Sonia,” and “Sotomayor,” are used to refer to Sonia Sotomayor as both a youth, and as an author, respectively. You are expected to use “Sotomayor,” or “Justice Sotomayor,” when discussing the adult author and United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. It is OK to use “Sonia” to refer to Sotomayor as a child, however.
This assignment is worth 10 points. In order to get full-credit for this assignment, you must use complete sentences. If you use a quotation to support your point, you must use a signal phrase, and/or a dropped quotation with a page number citation. You must give full answers to the prompts. You must use examples from the text to support your answers. You must answer each prompt. Use correct punctuation, spelling, and grammar. You have one week to complete this assignment, so take your time and do this carefully. Failure to do any of the above steps will result in a deduction of points for this assignment.
Prologue through Chapter Five
Sotomayor describes her early life living with her father and her mother. Describe the type and the quality of the care Sotomayor received as a child. Why do you think Sotomayor makes the statement: “I probably learned more self-discipline from living with diabetes than I ever did from The Sisters of Charity,” (5).
How might the medical treatment Sotomayor received as a child have impacted her decision to become a litigator?
What are some indications that Sonia Sotomayor may have learned how to deal with difficult people and difficult situations as a young child? How important would you say early family relationships were in determining the way Sonia Sotomayor approached communicating with others?
Describe the circumstances under which Sotomayor meets her great-grandparents.
Citing examples from the book, how would you describe the relationship between Sonia Sotomayor and her mother?
What kind of relationship did Sonia’s mother have with her own father (Sonia’s grandfather)?
How would you describe and characterize the communication within the Sotomayor family? What do you think are the most important communication strategies Sonia Sotomayor learned as a child from watching her family members interact?
Sonia enjoyed vacation with her mother. Where would they vacation and what did she enjoy about vacationing with her mom?
Sotomayor describes Abuelita as having objects in her housecoat. Describe this garment and the contents of this garment.
English is the predominant language of this text, but Sotomayor has also chosen to include Spanish words in this book. Do you find that the inclusion of a language other than English is distracting for a text that is used in an English writing and reading class? Explain your response.
Juli’s death is a pivotal moment in the life of Sonia Sotomayor. Who was Juli and under what circumstances did Juli die? In what ways did Sonia’s life change after the death of Juli?
Chapter Six through Chapter Twelve
How do you benefit from knowing how to read?
Reflect on the role literacy (reading) plays in Sotomayor’s life after the loss of Juli? What is it about written language that you think benefited Sotomayor during this time in her life?
Why does Sotomayor say, “What was all this adult misery about? I had my theory. They must all feel guilty, (62). How does Sotomayor understand gender as it pertains to familiar communication and interaction in her family community?
Is there a gendered component to communication? Explain your answer and give examples.
Define the term, “guilt-induced” grief (64). How does Sotomayor explain her theory of “guilt-induced” grief (Chapter Seven)?
Explain the relationship between memory and grief as discussed by Sotomayor. Does the theory make sense to you? Explain your answer with examples from the book.
What does Sotomayor mean by: “You can’t say: This much love is worth this much misery, (95).
Who was the person of first “real-world authority,” (97) Sonia met and what does she mean by that term? What does this revelation tell you about gender roles during the time of her childhood?
Did being diagnosed with Juvenile diabetes limit Sotomayor’s professional prospects? Would a child facing the same health problems, today, have to make different career choices than Sotomayor?
How did television play a role in Sotomayor’s life (104)? Under what circumstances can TV be considered a social benefit and under what circumstances can TV be a social ill?
Describe a typical afternoon in the seventh-grade-Sotomayor home.
How did Sotomayor develop the confidence to speak publicly?
What kind of expectations did Sotomayor’s middle-school teachers have for their students? How did her experiences in high school and middle school prepare Sonia Sotomayor to become a lawyer?
What social issues are revealed in the exploration of Sonia Sotomayor’s early life, up to age 15 when discusses the role of empathy (123).