Obama’s Mother is the Subject of New Book: A Singular Woman

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Stanley Ann Dunham, President Obama’s mother, is the subject of a deeply reported and researched biography, A Singular Woman, by award-winning, New York Times reporter Janny Scott, which is scheduled for release on May 3, 2011 by Riverhead Books. Sarah McGrath, Vice President and Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, acquired World English hardcover, paperback, audio and electronic rights at auction to A Singular Woman from Scott Moyers at The Wylie Agency.

Little is known about this fiercely independent, spirited woman who raised the current president of the United States. Through her exhaustive research, Janny Scott has uncovered the full breadth of Stanley Ann Dunham’s life.

Janny Scott says, “I wrote an article for The New York Times about Dunham in 2008. It was long for a newspaper but short for a life. Yet people who read it were seized by her story and, some said, moved to tears. As a result of the article, I was offered a chance to write a book on Dunham, and I spent two and half years following her trail. From the Flint Hills of Kansas to Hawaii, from the dusty villages of Java to New York, I interviewed nearly 200 colleagues, friends, professors, acquaintances, and relatives, including her two children.  Without their generosity I could not have written this book.”

Sarah McGrath says, “I was very moved reading Janny Scott’s article on Barack Obama’s mother and immediately wanted more on the subject.  An inspiration as a person and as a mother, she’s someone we want to understand better.  I’ve been an admirer of Scott’s reporting for years, and now she brilliantly captures the full portrait of this extraordinary woman who defied being pigeonholed and lived life on her own terms.”

To tell this moving story, Scott accessed far-reaching and never-before-tapped sources. She combed through tattered field notebooks, boxes of personal and professional papers, letters to friends, photo albums, and much more. Most important, Scott met repeatedly with President Obama’s half sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and interviewed the President exclusively on the topic of his mother and their relationship.

An unconventional woman who emerged from a conventional time, Dunham crossed boundaries and cultures and defied the strictures of gender and race.  Her story moves from the oil towns of southeastern Kansas and the booming postwar suburbs of Seattle, to the metal-working and batik-making villages of Java and the city of Yogyakarta, the center of classical Javanese fine arts and culture. It begins in the years before the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the Vietnam War and the Pill and finds its culmination in the present moment with Barack Obama as our president.

Riverhead Books, a distinguished and critically acclaimed imprint of Penguin Group (USA), is home to many New York Times–bestselling and award-winning authors, including Khaled Hosseini, Junot Diaz, Kathleen Norris, James McBride, Daniel Pink, Nick Hornby, Sarah Vowell, Shalom Auslander, Dinaw Mengestu, and Aleksandar Hemon, among others.

Penguin Group (USA) Inc. is the U.S. member of the internationally renowned Penguin Group.  Penguin Group (USA) is one of the leading U.S. adult and children’s trade book publishers, owning a wide range of imprints and trademarks, including Viking, G. P. Putnam’s Sons, The Penguin Press, Riverhead Books, Dutton, Penguin Books, Berkley Books, Gotham Books, Portfolio, New American Library, Plume, Tarcher, Philomel, Grosset & Dunlap, Puffin, and Frederick Warne, among others. The Penguin Group ( is part of Pearson plc, the international media company.