A Singular Woman

A Singular Woman

The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother

Book - 2011
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Award-winning reporter Scott uncovers the full breadth of Stanley Ann Dunham's inspiring and untraditional life.
Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9781594487972
Characteristics: 376 p., [8] p. of plates :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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Most readers might pick up this book because it is a biography of Stanley Ann Dunham, the mother of the current US President. However, the story is so compelling because Ann has led an extremely interesting life. In the epilogue, President Obama acknowledges that his mother “had a naivete and idealism that’s, I suppose, the naive idealism in me” – an important characteristic in an American president, history has shown. This is certainly a page-turner of a biography! (submitted by library customer MA)

- pages 106-107: Ann had left her infant daughter, Maya, in Jakarta with a servant—a choice that startled [Elizabeth] Bryant, unaccustomed as she was to Indonesian child-rearing. She wondered, too, why Ann, with an Indonesian husband, would consider moving [back] to the United States. Over lunch, Barry [Barack Obama] sat at the dining table and listened intently but did not speak. When he asked to be excused, Ann directed him to ask the hostess for permission. Permission granted, he got down on the floor and played with Bryant’s son, who was thirteen months old. After lunch, the group took a walk near Gadjah Mada University, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction, ducking behind a wall and shouting racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodgeball “with unseen players,” Bryant remembered. Ann did not seem visibly to react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. “No, he’s okay,” she remembered Ann saying. “He’s used to it.”

“I’ll tell you what both of us felt,” Bryant told me. “We were floored that she’d bring a half-black child to Indonesia, knowing the disrespect they have for blacks. It was unusually bad. I remember thinking, ‘Oh, they’re more racist than the U.S., by far.’ ” At the same time, she admired Ann for teaching her boy to be fearless. A child in Indonesia needed to be raised that way—for self-preservation, Bryant decided. Ann also seemed to be teaching Barry respect. He had all the politeness that Indonesian children displayed toward their parents. He seemed to be learning Indonesian ways.

Jan 03, 2015

Too many incongruencies in her background. Ford Foundation grants, which at the time were associated with the CIA's Project Camelot. Ms. Ann Dunham Soetoro's work in Indonesia coinciding with the slaughter of so many leftists and socialist leaning citizens? Inferences of her being an activist, yet married to [Rockefeller-owned] Stanvac oil company liaison to Indonesian government, later holding similar positions in Mobil and Unocal? If Stanley Ann Dunham wasn't one of those anthropologists involved in compiling the death lists for Suharto and the CIA, which other one was it exactly? This book leaves more questions than answers? And Mr. [Timmy's father] Geithner was the grant disburser at Ford Foundation?

Nov 04, 2014

An excellent read. I learned so much about Indonesia and the woman herself.

Jun 07, 2014

I found reading this book to be inspiring. It is often difficult to be the loner on the outside when one realizes one is an eccentric and different from many of one's own peers due to one's life experiences and/or personaility. In my case I am a introvert who can sometimes act when the need demands it as a temporary extrovert. . . This book can, in my opinion, be a tool for greater understanding of one's inner workings and deepest feelings of self image and how a person fits &/or does not fit in social settings.

Jun 12, 2012

Author did a lot of leg work tracking down the information and it was presented in an interesting narrative. I loved learning about her Kansas and Seattle background. I thought she was quite determined to go from a single mom, living in Indonesia, leading research teams, earning her Phd. Wish she had caught her cancer earier as she died quite young. Her mother was also a determined woman, working herself into a VP position at the Bank of Hawaii.

May 22, 2012

I enjoyed learning more about the president's mother. What an interesting character! She seems much more eccentric than her son.

May 20, 2012

Disappointing book. I can't tell if it's the author's failure or if Stanley Ann eludes my understanding.

Dec 27, 2011

Well researched and told biography of President Obama's mother, an unusual lady who perhaps led the most unusual life of any mother of a US President.

swiftliz Aug 26, 2011

Fascinating biography of a woman who has largely been ignored by the general public.
A loving mother, and a caring cultural anthropologist.

The book itself is a bit heavy going at times, almost too much information. None the less, a very good read.

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