Cover Story continued

In the preface to the 2004 edition of Dreams from My Father, President Barack Obama writes, “I think sometimes that had I known she would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book–less a mediation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life.”

In the biography, A Singular Woman, author and former New York Times reporter, Janny Scott, offers us a richer story of the President’s mother, a “brainy girl from a quintessentially American family, who, at 17, conceived a child with a man from Kenya in an era when nearly half of all states barred interracial marriage.”

Dunham’s life is abundantly researched, and highlights from Scott’s book include an exploration of Dunham’s ancestry, family traditions, education, and an archival portrait of an American heritage that is neither exotic nor alien. Scott’s unsentimental reporting of Dunham’s life offers us the story of a independent woman whose family originally rooted themselves in the Flint Hills of Kansas, later emerging through Ann, as social pioneers.

Janny Scott

Riverhead Books 2011

386 pages $16