Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Day 20

Dear Mr. President,

I'm just about finished with Dreams From My Father. I'm not usually such a slow reader; I confess that, while I've been enjoying the story, I've felt uncomfortable reading anything that isn't breaking news this week. It was a guilty pleasure, today while babysitting, to return to your beautiful narrative.

I'll be taking my own journey to discover family members later this year. I've recently reconnected with part of my family in the Midwest, people I've never met or haven't seen since I was a child. As important as it is for me to see my grandmother, the abundance of aunts, uncles and cousins I'm sure to meet there intimidate me. I'm so thoroughly conditioned for urban life that even spending last Sunday in my suburban hometown barely an hour away was practically visiting a foreign land. How am I going to survive Nebraska? Where every one owns a car and the idea of finding good Indian, Thai or even decent espresso seems laughable. I'm probably going to have to cover up my tattoos. I'm definitely going to have to listen to country music. I think they probably have vegetarian check stations at the border, making people eat a piece of steak before they let them in.

All right, I'm mostly kidding. And, to be honest, my fear of visiting the Midwest is more about disappointing my relatives than of culture shock. I'm told that this part of the country is "real America." What if it is just as foreign to me as I fear it will be? What does that say about my American-ness? This was a bigger issue under President Bush. On election night, my best friend and I wandered into a 24-hour QFC and giddily took picture of each other holding up arugula, gleefully celebrating the notion that America was somehow made safe for our elitist-organic-whole-foods-liberal lifestyles. America may now have enough room for us and our way of living, but it did not change my family, who by blood and marriage have forged a right to judge me that others do not posses. And we all have to make peace with our origins, be they in Nairobi or Nebraska City.

I'm impressed with the courage you demonstrate in revealing the challenges of your journey, the honesty in the way you discuss your disappointments and theirs, and the genuine affection so many strangers can have for one another. It gives me hope for my own journey. Also, I feel like you've opened yourself up more honestly than any other President. Perhaps this is only an indication of your complete lack of presidential ambitions at the time. Regardless, it reminds your readers of your humanity, in the face of our often unreasonable expectations. Tonight I'm planning to stay up until I'm finished with the book, and I have to say I'm sorry that it's ending.

Respectfully yours,


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