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

Extended Audio Sample A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obamas Mother Audiobook, by Janny Scott Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (613 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Janny Scott Narrator: January LaVoy Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2011 ISBN: 9781101496909
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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, as he says, "what is best in me." Here is the missing piece of the story.

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

Dunham'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, 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 offers 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 would go on to his greatest accomplishments and reflections of what she taught him.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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)
  • 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
  • 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
  • A 2011 Time Magazine Top 10 Book for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kerry | 2/15/2014

    " Super fascinating. not the best told story ever, but a really fascinating woman. goes into a lot of detail about her field work in Indonesia where she studied the informal economy and became a practitioner including a key Ford Foundation employee in Indonesia and wound up being an early promoter of microfinance. Also some interesting light on the health care problems she encountered - not quite accurately detailed during the campaign, but whatevs. She also had these crazy expat friendships that brought me back to Armenia. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Julie Fischer | 2/6/2014

    " I found the life of President O'Bama's mother interesting, but I felt that the book wasn't well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deirdre | 1/31/2014

    " I debated giving this book a 3.5 or a 4. But as I finished the book I felt strongly about it being a 4. It well-researched, very thorough and well-written. I had not been so captivated by all of the details of all the particular programs and research Ann Dunham conducted in Indonesia even though I was a Non-Western History and Diplomacy major in college. I was really more interested in broader themes about this individual -- her childhood, her adult life as an anthropologist, mother and sometimes wife -- as well as the themes of race and women and careers in America, not to mention the history and culture of Indonesia. In the end, however, I think that the details were important in unveiling a complex woman, anthropologist and mom. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 1/25/2014

    " I knew practically nothing about Obama's mother, so I'm really glad I read this comprehensive book about her too-short life. To be remembered with love and affection by your children - what more could a mother want? Both of her children are a testament to her. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bernadette | 1/20/2014

    " This comprehensive and balanced biography of Ann Dunham, Barak Obama's mother, offers a remarkable view of a highly intelligent woman who lived life fully and on her own terms, unafraid of standing out or doing things differently. I learned a great deal about microfinance in Indonesia and other developing countries, perhaps more than I wanted, but this is where Dunham primarily spent her working years. Her struggles to meet family needs and fulfill her career/educational goals are central to the book. The author also sheds light on the values Dunham passed on to President Obama. Very worthwhile. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary | 1/16/2014

    " Finished this a few weeks ago but forgot to update. It's a slow read, in part because there is so much to savor and so much to learn. I doubt I will ever forget the deep impression this book made or the real story of this amazing woman. Highly recommended. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Owen | 1/16/2014

    " This one was a low 3 stars for me. The writing and storytelling were fine if not spectacular. It left me with a clearer picture of our enigmatic president. There was a ton I didn't know, like his mother had two kids and two failed marriages in 4 years, then lived in Indonesia. At one point she worked for DAI, and, on the bright side, I feel better about my PhD progression after reading her story. Worth reading if you want to understand the president a little more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Audrey | 1/1/2014

    " Very thorough account of the life of Stanley Ann Dunham. Many surprises as you follow this unique woman's life. Definitely worth the read! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mary Foster | 12/31/2013

    " Could use some serious editing, but I did learn some small facts about her life that I have not read in other sources. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joy Johnson | 12/28/2013

    " A bit slow at times. Author seemed to be reaching to find something interesting about the Presidents mom. Overall good research and informative. Maybe a bit longer than needed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Klang-glienna | 12/20/2013

    " I don't usually read biographies but found this story of Barak O'Bama's mother to be very interesting and well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Careen Shannon | 12/3/2013

    " This is a great complement to Obama's biography, "Dreams from My Father," and the David Maraniss biography of Barack Obama himself. Turns out that his mother was a really interesting woman! Among other things, she was one of the early pioneers of microfinancing in the Third World. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Carmen | 11/20/2013

    " I wanted to love this book, but I found the writing annoying. The author interviewed lots of people, but rather than just using the info they provided, she gives a short bio about everybody. Too many people mentioned, got boring. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat | 2/9/2013

    " Well written. Easy to see why she raised such remarkable son. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karima | 10/7/2012

    " Lots of information but no soul. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anne Van | 8/25/2012

    " Well researched biography of an interesting woman that I would have loved to have known, gives a slightly different perspective on Obama's background. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Karen | 8/3/2012

    " A bit dry and over detailed on all the places she lived, work she did... Not as enlightening as I thought it would be... She did live an interesting life but 1/2 the book could have been eliminated as to me it just seemed that every chapter was more of the same. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel | 5/29/2012

    " I enjoyed this book; I learned a lot about Stanley and Barack Obama. I wasn't a huge fan of the way the book was written, or how it went into a lot of detail on some aspects of her life and not others. However, most of the book was really quite fascinating and enlightening. I recommend it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lisa Mcqueen | 4/13/2012

    " it is unmistakable that ann dunham's core values, generous spirit, and at times, naive idealism, live on through our president today. an insightful biography. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anna Maria | 12/23/2011

    " Learned that there was so much more to this woman than we learned about during the campaign/election. Way too many details about her Anthropology field work, though it made her accomplishments clear. Glad I stuck to it until the end. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 7/5/2011

    " Being an anthropology major/African studies minor, I was very interested in this account of President Obama's mother. In ways it made me want to take a different route after college, but she also gave up a lot to continue her dream...or obsession. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ruth-Ann | 5/17/2011

    " Amazing woman, amazing book. What an incredible, inspiring life she lived. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Suzanne | 5/7/2011

    " This is a fascinating portrait of a complicated woman, one whom I deeply admired by the time I'd finished reading. My only complaints would be that large chunks seemed to be taken from Obama's books, and also there was no index. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Paul | 5/4/2011

    " An interesting story of Stanley Ann Dunham, a cultural anthropologist based mostly in Indonesia.
    The story interviewed many of her family members, friends and associates.
    It explored many aspects of her character that are so evident in Barack Obama. "

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About the Narrator

January LaVoy, winner of numerous Earphones Awards for narration, is an American actress best known for her character Noelle Ortiz on the ABC daytime drama One Life to Live. In addition to working extensively in narration and television, including roles on Law & Order and All My Children, she has worked on and off Broadway as well as in regional theater.