Arts + Culture

President Obama’s Sister Puts Their Mom in Picture Book

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Above a rooftop in Jakarta or the Indus River in Pakistan, the moon looms large in the childhood memories of Maya Soetoro-Ng, but President Obama’s little sister hadn’t realized how important those memories were until she was pregnant with her oldest daughter.

It was then she thought about how their mother, Ann Dunham, would jostle her awake wherever they were — in India or New York, England or Hawaii — to head outside so they could appreciate the moon. And how grandmother and granddaughter would never meet.

Suhaila, now 6, was born a decade after Dunham died of cancer, but Soetoro-Ng has paired her and “Grandma Annie” through the moon in a picture book out this month.

The dreamily drawn book from Candlewick Press, “Ladder to the Moon,” opens with little Suhaila asking her mother what her grandmother was like. “She was like the moon,” her mother replies. “Full, soft and curious.”


Pictured: Maya Soetoro-Ng reads from her children’s book ‘Ladder to the Moon’ at the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library on April 15, 2011 in Washington, DC. Ms. Soetoro-Ng is President Barack Obama’s half sister and is debuting her first picture book that tells a story that was inspired by her own daughter. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)