Evans, Charlene T. Books

Dr. Charlene T. Evans received her Ph.D. from Rice University, Texas, and is presently Professor of English at Texas Southern University, Houston.

Race and Identity in Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father. A Collection of Critical Essays
2012 0-7734-1601-3
This book examines significant aspects of President Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father both in relation to the African American literary tradition and to the context of the relevant historical and cultural productions that inform it. The authors view the book a work of literature and compare it to other works by black authors such as Toni Morrison, Frederick Douglass, and Ralph Ellison among others. Some authors contest the idea that the book was written during a pre-political stage in President Obama's life because it was released to coincide with his first political campaign in Chicago, Illinois in the mid-1990's. For autobiographical reasons the book is important because it shows various aspects of President Obama's upbringing, and put in his own words his experience of being black in America. There is also a discussion of why he chose the less Americanized Barack when he went into college, rather than the homogeneous, whitened name Barry, which was the name he preferred in grammar school (out of being teased by other children) - and how he chose this name precisely because it constructed his identity as anti-thetical to the dominant paradigms of whiteness that he had been confined to while growing up in Hawaii. One article even describes President Obama's father being ostracized from Kenyan politics after a coup d'etat forced a leader out of power who he had publically supported, which lead the family to America. It also tells the story of a turgid paternal influence on the young Barack Obama, where caught in a vicious cycle of perpetually working for his father's approval, he spiraled into low self-esteem, which may have fueled his political ambitions later in life (as overcompensation for a lack of fatherly approval).