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Book Review:
A Singular Woman
The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mother by Janny Scott

by Julie Randolph

After reading Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama I felt an interest in learning more about the woman, Ann Dunham, mother of Barack Obama. Janny Scott's book A Singular Woman, a New York Times Bestseller, shows that it was not necessarily the disappearance of his father, but his unconventional mother who had a strong part in molding and shaping our President, Barack Obama. This is a book that shows how character is passed from parent to child and how Barack Obama's destiny was molded from an early age due to his mother's unconventional mothering.

Barack Obama once simply described his mother as "a white woman from Kansas" during the 2008 Democratic Convention. Ann Dunham's character was not really touched upon in depth in the previous above mentioned books by Barack Obama. But in Janny Scott's book, she sheds light in depth on the life and characteristics of this woman.

We have heard the basics, that Ann Dunham married a black man at a time when roughly half of the United States outlawed such unions. She married Barack Obama Senior in her first year as a student at the University of Hawaii. She had a child as a result of this marriage, Barack Obama. While learning later that he was already married to a Kenyan woman - the marriage did not last and she later fell in love with a kinder, happier spirited man from Indonesia and a second child was born from this marriage, Maya, Barack Obama's sister.

Most of this book is the story of Ann Dunham's personal life and work including her personality traits. As a Psychology major in college, I am always interested in what makes a person "tick" - the influences that mold a person's life. If you are interested in this - this is what you will find in this book. It does not relate heavily into the relationship of Barack Obama with his mother specifically. It does show how the personality of this woman, naturally molded the character of Barack Obama.

Barack Obama has been described as a thinker, analytical, thoughtful with an inquiring mind, a man who seeks freedom, not only for himself but others, open, friendly, complex, controlled and charismatic or magnetic. Some of his negative traits have been described as indecisive, cold at times, and distant in manner. Reading this book, you will understand how his character traits were molded from his mother

Barack Obama was 10 years old when his mother brought him back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. This was actually a choice she gave Barack - either to stay in Indonesia with her, or stay with her parents. He chose to stay with his grandparents. His mother moved back to Indonesia, also separating him from his sister Maya. It is told in the book that she did this because the schools were better and she wanted what was best for him educationally. This family unit never spent another year living together again. No matter what the reason, being separated from one’s mother, no matter what age, has to be a traumatic experience and something that will affect a person’s personality and his relationships with others in his adult age.

With that being said, Barack Obama has stated that one of his worst decisions in life was not being by his mother’s bedside as she was dying of ovarian cancer. This story shows the heartbreak of a woman who died at the age of 52, before her son reached his greatest accomplishment.

This book describes Ann Dunham's life and characteristics in detail. It starts off slow, does not mention much about his grandparents raising him, nor his sister. Although she wasn't particularly close to her son, she still instilled in him the idea that serving people and improving lives is a goal that is far superior than earning a high income. I enjoyed this book very much and treasured the missing pieces that were left out of Barack Obama’s books. I think you will have mixed emotions about his upbringing and at the same time you will admire the many strengths of this woman as unconventional as they may seem.


Julie Randolph
Julie Randolph