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

Janny Scott

When people repeat the cliché about there being a woman behind every great man, they are usually referring to wives. But, as this fascinating book makes clear, the woman behind the greatness in President Barack Obama is his extraordinary mother. And even people who can’t stand Obama will have to admit he’s accomplished great things, overcoming enormous obstacles to achieve heights few could have predicted when he was born to Stanley Ann Dunham, a teenage mother who had married a man from Kenya at a time when miscegenation laws were still on the books in about half the states in this country. Though the title describes Obama’s mama as “a singular woman,” the book kept reminding me of how many people of her generation—and mine—bucked the prevailing mores to seek out less constricted lives than may have been intended for us. Few of us, however, were quite as adventuresome as Dunham, and none but she produced the first African-American president of this country, though lots of us shared the attitudes that made his election possible. Our own history is writ large in this book, along with the president’s mother’s. Dunham’s life provides rich insight into her son, and into lots of people of her generation who, in part, shared her journey.