Obama’s Mother and Sister in the News Again

Dunham_cvr This month's publication of President Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng's new children's book, Ladder to the Moon, brings the literary life of America's first family back into the news. It's a good time revisit our 2009 publication of the President's mother's book Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, for which Soetoro-Ng wrote the foreword. Some greeted our publication of S. Ann Dunham's dissertation skeptically: were we just publishing it to cash in on the popularity of the new president? Was the scholarship any good? We were rewarded as the scholarly reviews came in. The book has been uniformly praised by anthropology and Asian studies journals (see them all here). Writing in Anthropology of Work Review, Jim Weil called the book "a landmark of anthropological holism." In Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, Merle C. Ricklefs wrote, "This is real-world anthropology: it is authoritative, extraordinarily well documented and detailed, informed by concern for the human issues that are involved, and deeply intelligent." To learn more about Dunham's time living in Indonesia, check out today's New York Times excerpt from Janny Scott's forthcoming biography of her. Scott says that President Obama spoke of his mother in interviews with her "with fondness, humor, . . . and a hint of gentle forebearance." "“She was a very strong person in her own way," Obama told Scott. "Resilient, able to bounce back from setbacks, persistent—the fact that she ended up finishing her dissertation. But despite all those strengths, she was not a well-organized person." At Duke Press we thank editors Alice Dewey and Nancy Cooper for bringing organization to Dunham's important work and to Maya Soetoro-Ng and President Obama for allowing us to publish it.

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