In Dreams from My Father, when Barack Obama makes his trip to Kenya, what does he come to understand about his father and his own heritage?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a result of his trip to Kenya, a coherency in Barack Obama's narrative emerges.  It is one that connects his father, his heritage, and his future.

When he makes his trip to Kenya, Barack Obama notes that "the circle finally close[d]."  Throughout his life, there had been something of a disconnect between Barack and his identity.  He was never able to fully piece things together.  However, this changes as a result of his trip to Kenya, specifically as he stands between the graves of his father and grandfather:

I realized that who I was, what I cared about, was no longer just a matter of intellect or obligation, no longer a construct of words. I saw that my life in America...was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father's pain. My questions were my brothers' questions. Their struggle, my birthright.

The trip to Kenya provides insight into Barack's identity.  It ends up answering difficult questions that plagued him growing up.  These questions could not be answered because of the lack of perceived unity in his life.

It was only through his trip to Kenya, reestablishing connections with his roots, that he began to understand that he is an extension of his father and his heritage.  His identity became real and tangible.  It no longer existed in artificial social or academic constructions.  In reclaiming his "birthright," Barack Obama is able to understand what previously eluded his grasp.