A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother

A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother

by Janny Scott


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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 "what is best in me." Here is the missing piece of the story.

Award-winning reporter Janny Scott has interviewed nearly two hundred of Ann'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 Ann's inspiring and untraditional life, and to show the remarkable extent to which she shaped the man Obama is today.

Ann'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 moment, with her son as our president-something she never got to see. It is a poignant look at how character is passed from parent to child, and insight into how Obama's destiny was created early, by his mother's extraordinary faith in his gifts, and by her unconventional mothering. Finally, it is a heartbreaking story of a woman who died at age fifty-two, before her son had gone on to his greatest accomplishments and reflections of what she had taught him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594487972
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/03/2011
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.18(h) x 1.35(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Janny Scott was a reporter for The New York Times from 1994 to 2009, when she left to write this book. In 2008 she contributed six long, biographical articles for the Times series on the lives of the presidential candidates. She was part of the reporting team that won the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. She lives in New York City.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“An ambitious new biography. . . . Scott pursues a more perplexing and elusive figure than the one Obama pieced together in his own books.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Even Obama knew that he had not his extraordinary mother justice. Janny Scott . . . does. She portrays Dunham as a feminist, an utterly independent spirit, a cultural anthropologies, and an international development officer who surely helped shape the internationalist, post-Vietnam-era world view of her son. Scott’s book is tirelessly researched, and the sections covering Dunham’s life in Indonesia especially are new and valuable to the accumulating biography of Obama’s extended global family.”—The New Yorker

“Janny Scott packs two and a half years of research into her bio of Stanley Ann Dunham, the quixotic anthropologist who raised a president.”—People

 “The restrained, straight-ahead focus—rather in the spirit, it turns out, of Dunham herself—pays off. By recovering Obama’s mother from obscurity, A Singular Woman adds in a meaningful way to an understanding of a singular president.”—Slate
“The key to understanding the disciplined and often impassive 44th president is his mother, as Janny Scott, a reporter for the New York Times, decisively demonstrates in her new biography A Singular Woman. . . . Scott [uses] meticulous reporting, archival research and extensive interviews with Dunham’s colleagues, friends and family, including the president and his sister. What emerges is a portrait of a woman who is both disciplined and disorganized, blunt-spoken and empathetic, driven and devoted to her children, even as she ruefully admits her failings and frets over her distance from them.”—The Washington Post
“Meticulously-researched and well-written . . . a necessary counterpart and corrective to Obama’s first book Dreams from my Father.”—Financial Times

“In her own right, Ann Dunham was a fascinating woman. . . . The story of the ‘singular woman’ at the center of this book is told, and told well, by Scott.”—San Francisco Chronicle
 “What emerges in this straightforward, deeply reported account is a complicated portrait of an outspoken, independent-minded woman with a life of unconventional choices.”—USA Today
“We get a much fuller story of Ms. Dunham’s life in A Singular Woman, Janny Scott’s richly researched, unsentimental book.”—The New York Times

“If you want to understand what shaped our president, don’t look to his father’s disappearance. It was his unconventional mother who made him. . . . [An] incisive biography.”—Newsweek
“A richly nuanced, decidedly sympathetic portrait of President Obama’s remarkably accomplished, spirited mother. . . . A biography of considerable depth and understanding.”—Kirkus

“Scott gives us a vivid, affecting profile of an unsung feminist pioneer who made breaking down barriers a family tradition and whose legacy extends well beyond her presidential son.”—Publishers Weekly (starred)

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A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
if you are are not an admirer of the president you will get nothing from this book. but if you are it is a must read. she was an amazing woman and i am glad for the insight on her compassionate socially conscious life. what an exceptional role model for her children.
Jean Richardson More than 1 year ago
I do not understand why, but I am suprised at the number of reviews that profess hate for Ms Dunham because they dislike her son. On another site, one person stated that Republicans should have endorsed abortion in her case. We are not required to agree with the President, but these remarks about his mother are beneath comtempt. I doubt that they have the decency to be ashamed of their actions that prove that racism is alive in America.
GeGee More than 1 year ago
An interesting look into Barack Obama's Mother and some insight into his up bringing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
STanley Ann Dunhanm was a woman before her time. Her influence on her son and daughter was immense. But not only is she an interesting woman but the extended family of her parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are interesting. She was an admirable woman and should be admired by women of today. This book is a must for people who like the president and admire him. Even if you don't like him, this book will enlighten you as to the impact she had on Mr. Obama's intellect and his approach to the world. When I read at the end of the book of how she died, I actually had tears. Her son and daughter lost a great mother. The academia lost a great intellect and the poor lost an advocate. It is sad to think that her grandchildren would not know her.
Meshugenah More than 1 year ago
Ms. Dunham led a life ahead of her time, and she did it with integrity and humor and love. Unfortunately, Janny Scott has written in such a dry, old, uninteresting style that I felt I was reading her a collection of the author's expanded notes, not yet formed into a book that reflected the life it was reporting. Interesting subject. Poor writing. Poor editing. Let's hope someone else comes along and does a better job.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Regardess of ones political affiliation or opinion of our current President, this well-researched book illuminates a person who was much more than "the white woman from Kansas". In many ways the tale of her family and life reflect the archetypal American story. Her willingness to reach beyond boundaries is shown as evolving -- not in opposition to, but in continuation of, the values, beliefs and dreams of her forbearers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have mixed reviews about this book. Didn't take full responsibility for raising her son, she became a mother of two children, yet she continued to live her life as she wanted to live it. In spite of all this her children turned out to be intellegent, highly educated, caring individuals. Look at her son. One of the greatest presidents of all time. I am glad the grandmother lived to see her grandson run for president, she must have been so proud.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone raised in Indonesia, I found this book very interesting and evoked many good memories of life in the Spice Islands. Janny Scott did a great job of interviewing family, friends and colleagues of Ann Duhnam.
Terry Vaught More than 1 year ago
Really an interesting read. I had trouble putting this book down. It was really a glimpse into another time and several other cultures.
catwak More than 1 year ago
I liked this, but somewhere in the middle, Ann the person was lost in the discussion of international development and microfinance, which was itself informative & new to me. I was intrigued by the ways in which the lives of Ann's parents were recapitulated in her own experience. The photographs were especially good. I'll also be permanently envious of a woman who never had to wear pantyhose until she was past 50!
lhossler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I kept waiting for something to happen,. Finally I gave up. The title says it all, "Barak Obama's Mother". While she influenced his life, she was not a daily influence to him. There were too many details about her work and education in Indonesia, but the author seemed to be searching for facts. The book was way too long.
Jcambridge on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Given so much attention has been given to and written about Barack Obama's father, I enjoyed reading a history of his mother. When one considers her life and generation, she truly was a singular woman, venturing to parts of the world and societies where relatively few Americans (particularly women) ever considered going. She was fortunate to have had parents who were willing and available to step in and help raise her son, who clearly faced challenges while living in Indonesia. I enjoyed the book and have a real appreciation of the research on which Ann Dunham focused so much of her life. She may not have been physically present for much of his youth, but there can be no doubt that she loved her son and in her own way set an example of what one can do with her/his life.
tangledthread on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Janny Scott takes on the task of illuminating the life of a most unusual woman whose life was much more than the "white woman from Kansas" description of the President's political campaign.The book begins in a linear fashion, tracing the roots of Stanley Ann Dunham's heritage. The narrative begins to wander from the linear as Ann's parents move from Kansas, to California, to the Pacific Northwest and finally to Hawaii. Once the story entered Ann's adult life as she entered college and her first marriage, the narrative became more looping than linear. I struggled with the looping of the narrative and wished for a timeline and a chart of people through the moves back and forth between Hawaii and Indonesia, and various points throughout the Pacific archipelago that Ann studied. But as the narrative entered the last third of the book, I began to realize that the looping in the narrative was very characteristic of S. Ann Dunham's life. It was time to let go of the lists and just absorb the story of this remarkable woman's life.The author spent a great deal of time, travel, and effort to trace the path and interview the people who could shed light on a very full and somewhat chaotic life. What emerges is a fascinating portrait of a woman who lived life on her own terms, often at the edge of economic security. One of the things I appreciate most about this book, is that despite the subtitle, we see that S. Ann Dunham was much more than Barack Obama's mother: the President's personal reflections on his mother are saved for the epilogue.I almost gave up on this one in the middle, but am glad I stuck with it. There's a lot to digest when one reaches the end of the story.
bakersfieldbarbara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! I cannot believe I have never heard of this woman and her contribution to the world. Not because she is the President's mother, but because she is Stanley Ann Dunham, an anthropoligist, developement consultant, microfinancier, and mother, wife and American. I became breathless just following her from birth to death, and in between. The story begins at a time when interracial marriage was a crime and segregation and discrnmination were facts of life. Defying the rules of race, motherhood and gender, Ms. Dunham did things that only an unconventional woman could do. Falling in love with a kenyan student at the University of Hawaii in 1960 , she became pregnant with his child at age 17. Evidently, her two marriages ended, she rasied her now two children in Indonesia. Making the heartbreaking decision to allow her son to live with his grandparents so that he could bget a better educationm she continued on with her courageous and uncommon course.Her values and choices shaped the man her son is today.I had a difficult time putting this book down as I was reliving my own life as it copied much of Ms. Dunhams. I especially found it troubling that President Obama speaks more highly of his absent father than of his hard working and delightful mother, who made typical motherly sacrifices to give her children the best that she could considering her situation. I would love to have met this wonderful woman and laughed and cried at how our children are so unaware of what we do to surviv e and thrive as single mothers.I recommend this book highly, and especially to those whom think that Obama is from another planet or country, and that his birth is suspicious. What an insult to this fascinating woman and to those of us who look at all of the facts in a person's life. Buy this book for anyone who is a doubter and a birther. An unprescendented book, about an unprescendented lady.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Zislaw More than 1 year ago
The can be boring at times, but that has more to do with the subject than the author, who was a very self-centered parent with her som. She raised her daughter, but not her son whom she handed off to her parents so she could pursue her "career" far away. It is a wonder that he did not become a drug dealer.
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