First published in 1995, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, is Barack Obama’s moving account of his life as a mixed race kid in a complicated family, and the development of his racial identity. The now famous story recounts how his Kansas mom came to marry his Kenyan dad, and takes us through his chaotic youth, his partying phase at Occidental College, his serious phase at Columbia University, his early work years before Harvard Law School, and his decision to visit Kenya in search of answers. Obama is a remarkably candid and skilled storyteller, recounting conversations and events that were key touchstones on his way to figuring out where he fit into a world that has never had an easy time with race. The book went into reprint after his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote, and became a best seller. It’s an amazing read, and I highly recommend it.
But the Grammy Award winning audio version is turning out to be even more fun.
Obama has one hell of a speaking voice, and does a really good job with the many characters who show up in the book. He recounts with future Presidential seriousness some pretty salty talk—typically speaking the words of others—which is starting to show up in remixes all over the interwebs. And uh, *damn nigga, if this shit isn’t entertaining* - I don’t know what is:
Obama was always an audio pioneer, he did more than 40 podcasts as a Senator. Jim Brayton, Obama’s former Internet Director (cute title, eh?) recently told me how naturally the Senator took to the format. "It was just him and me, a really great set up. He took to it very quickly, it was just an informal conversation about whatever the topic of the week was, what he was working on in the senate." Brayton calls it his biggest new media accomplishment while directing Obama’s Internet, since it gave constituents real insight into what their Senator was thinking and doing. And the book helped. "He’d already recorded the audio version of his book, which was a big project. So, he really got podcasting."
Senator Obama on iTunes (The files were removed but at least you can see the podcast titles.)
As uncomfortable as it may be for some folks to hear the President speak this way, I find it refreshing—and so far, the remixes sound more like artistic tributes than anything else. (And if it didn't? I prefer a world in which data is shared, mashed and remixed more than a world in which data is not.) Not only has Obama consistently been willing to talk openly about some of the most vexing issues facing us—from race to families in crisis—he's often done it using himself as the narrative thread and in vernaculars of many hues. That sort of openness takes guts and skill.
This all bodes well for new ways that the government can be more transparent, but more importantly, will no doubt yield some killer health care policy dance mixes.
I'm less worried that impressionable youth will now suddenly start throwing the "n-word" around like the Prez, and more worried that middle aged folks like myself will start spontaneously Obama -rapping and trash-talking, making ourselves look stupid. Unlike the Prez. Frankly, this shit's getting way too complicated for me.[via today and tomorrow]