A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obamas Mother
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A major publishing event: an unprecedented look into the life of the woman who most singularly shaped Barack Obama-his mother. Barack Obama has written extensively about his father, but little is known about Stanley Ann Dunham, the fiercely independent woman who raised him, the person he credits for, as he says, "what is best in me.
Award-winning reporter Janny Scott interviewed nearly two hundred of Dunham's friends, colleagues, and relatives including both her children , and combed through boxes of personal and professional papers, letters to friends, and photo albums, to uncover the full breadth of this woman's inspiring and untraditional life, and to show the remarkable extent to which she shaped the man Obama is today.
Dunham's story moves from Kansas and Washington state to Hawaii and Indonesia. It begins in a time when interracial marriage was still a felony in much of the United States, and culminates in the present, with her son as our president- something she never got to see. I suppose it's hard to write a satisfying biography of such a silent person, so I am sympathetic to the author, but disappointed that I didn't learn more about what made the unconventional Stanley Ann Dunham tick.
May 20, Nancy rated it it was amazing Shelves: s-history , history , biography. I wanted more about what made him the man he became. This book provides some of that missing information and describes a woman who was very interesting in her own right. Stanley Ann Dunham was born in Kansas but raised all over the United States, landing in Hawai'i in with her parents. She met an African exchange student at the University of Hawai'i early in her freshman year, was immediately smitten, got pregnant, married him and set herself on a path much different from what her parents expected for the baby girl they had in The marriage to Barack Obama Sr.
A more profound change in the direction of Ann Dunham's life came through a subsequent marriage to an Indonesian exchange student which produced another child and a life long love affair with Indonesia and its culture. This is a book about Ann Dunham, but it gives a fascinating peek into the influences that created President Obama. It is well worth reading on both accounts. I discovered an interesting woman who followed a very unusual path and learned more about the family that formed the man who became President Obama.
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May 14, Joan Snodgrass Callaway rated it really liked it Shelves: biography. We knew that she had been a young single mother in Hawaii in the early s with a black son that she had to support. By emphasizing this part of his mother's history, Barack Obama assured people that, yes, he understood their economic pain. He told us of his determination to provide universal health care stemmed from his mother, fighting with her insurance company to not cut off her coverage while fatally ill wi We heard about Stanley Ann Dunham during Barack Obama's run for President in He told us of his determination to provide universal health care stemmed from his mother, fighting with her insurance company to not cut off her coverage while fatally ill with cancer.
What we did not know about was the sophistication and complexity of Ann Dunham's professionnal life as an anthropologist and pioneeer working from the "bottom up" for AID and the Ford Foundation, to help create the whole field of micro-lending in which poor women began creating their own businesses.
Dunham worked for the Ford Foundation for four years and Scott's reporting on her sojourn with that international organization is fascinating. She loved the job but in many ways was much more qualified than the Ivy-educated men who ran Ford's Indonesian office. She was fluent in the national language.
They were not. She had deep friendships in scores of villages, and was in fact, married for a time, to an Indonesian. Villagers had actually seen her give birth to an Indonesian baby. We did not know of her years long struggle to complete her dissertation for her PhD. Scott's prodigious, intelligent reporting -- she interviewed more than people who had known Dunham -- has produced a biography rich in detail about a strong-willed, impulsive, often generous,financially stressed woman of the late 20th century who admittedly, made many mistakes in her personal life, but never gave up her dream of doing something that she thought was important, while giving her two children good educations and good values.
She succeeded, but her life was rocky, seemingly often lonely and financially difficult.
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Her parents, living in Honolulu brought up Barack Obama from the age of ten and Scott tells us that Dunham often told friends that "he was brilliant" and that she missed him terribly. Noone else has recreated Dunham's life with its exotic intellectual interests, and stormy marriages, the way Scott has. Barack Obama is largely absent physically in this detailed book, and it is only in the epilogue, which brought tears to my eyes that we get a glimpse in her interview with Barack of the deep bond between mother and son. It becomes clear that that bond with his mother even though years spent apart influenced his cool demeanor, his determination to help people.
She regularly would write even on her busiest days two paragraphs to him that undoubtedly had influence on his psychological and philosophical development.
A Singular Woman by Janny Scott | Penguin Random House Audio
Sep 09, Louise rated it liked it Shelves: biography , obama , indonesia. She interviewed over friends and colleagues and read Dunham's field reports, letters and research papers. The result; however, is not as impressive as the effort. I think this is because the approach is that of a reporter and not a biographer. Interviews are dutifully reported.
Some say that Ann boasted about her children all the time, but others say they were surprised to learn she had kids. Some friends report that she shunned doctors but her actions contradict this. Some say she was not judgmental but others say she was highly opinionated The clearest interview, that with President Obama, is not contradicted since he mentions new points, missed by others, and perhaps Scott too.
He says that his mother was disorganized and that his grandparents sheltered him from the chaos of her life. This comes at the end, and is nowhere developed or critiqued in the text. The reporting style works for the history of the Paynes and the Dunhams and for documenting the saga of Ann's health care claim. These are important biographical pieces. The well reported sections on anthropology, microfinance, Indonesian villages, the people Ann worked with and the 5 pages describing the East-West Center in Honolulu, with the few biographical elements removed could stand as independent articles on these topics.
There are a lot of good pictures. There are good plates and relevant photos printed side by side with the text. The page 27 photo of the President's great-great-grandparents is worth words. There is no index. The subject is fascinating. This is the only biography of Stanley Ann Dunham that I know of, and for this alone, it is worth a read.