Discussion: Chapter 1 - Origins
As you read Chapter 1, prepare for Tuesday's class discussion with these questions.
1. As the story begins, the setting is East Harlem. List words that depict this section of New York.
2. What event foreshadows suggests beforehand the news Barack gets in a later call from Nairobi?
3. On page 4, we learn that Barack felt he was “a kindred like family spirit” to the man. In what ways were they similar?
4. In Barack’s experience of the two deaths, what was the same?
5. List details about Obama’s father and his African family in chronological order.
6. What personality traits can you infer from the following stories about Obama’s father?
a. The incident with the other African student
b. The international music festival
c. The encounter with a racist in a Waikiki Bar
7. On page 12, what is a synonym for miscegenation? In 1960, the year of his parents’ marriage, what was the attitude toward miscegenation in much of the United States?
List phrases associated with this term.
8. Was there another incidence of miscegenation in the family? Explain.
9. Describe the mentality the way people thought of Depression-era Middle America. What qualities or values were expected of people?
10. Did Obama’s grandfather, Stanley Dunham, live by these values as a young man? Explain.
11. What was Toot’s father’s initial reaction to Stanley? What racial slur did he use?
12. Trace Stanley and Toot’s odyssey migrations from the time of Pearl Harbor to the birth of Barack.
13. In Texas, in what ways did a racial incident affect the family as Barack’s mother was growing up?
14. What evidence is there that Barack’s mother was very bright?
15. How does Obama compare his father’s experience with that of the condition of the black race? (page 21).
16. What problems existed in Barack’s mother’s relationship with her father by the time they arrived in Hawaii?
17. What was the parents’ attitude toward the marriage from the beginning until the birth of Barack?
18. Explain the grandfather’s comment, “I’m sure that your picture’s in a thousand scrapbooks, Bar.”
19. In Barack’s final comments in Chapter 1, what does he say the stories about his father were really about?
20. In an article his own father published in The Honolulu Star-Bulletin upon his graduation, what insightful comment did he offer on the racial situation in Hawaii? Based on your own experience in the United States, would you agree or disagree?
21. Reread the last paragraph on page 27. What does it mean to you?