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4 comments

1 Bob Levin  May 10, 2011 3:39:24am

Psychobiographies are like quicksand made up to look like deep dish pizza. ;-)

2 researchok  May 10, 2011 6:23:31am

Interesting, though without having interviewed either Dunham or Obama, this is less of biographic effort and more of a speculative effort.

3 prairiefire  May 10, 2011 8:05:42am

He had a dysfunctional, hippie mom. I thought we had some things in common.

4 CuriousLurker  May 10, 2011 9:05:20am

re: #1 Bob Levin

re: #2 researchok

Ms. Scott interviewed President Obama as well as his (half) sister Maya Soetoro-Ng for the book, and it is based on 2+ years of research that included trips to places Dunham lived, access to her personal & professional papers, and interviews with 200+ people. From the excerpt of the book, which I linked to at NPR:

.…As a result of the article, I was offered a chance to write a book on Dunham, and I spent two and a half years following her trail. I drove across the Flint Hills of Kansas to the former oil boomtowns where her parents grew up during the Depression. I spent many weeks in Hawaii, where she became pregnant at seventeen, married at eighteen, divorced and remar­ried at twenty-two. I traveled twice to Indonesia, where she brought her son, at six, and from whence she sent him back, alone, at age ten, to her parents in Hawaii. I visited dusty villages in Java where, as a young anthropologist, she did fieldwork for her Ph.D. disserta­tion on peasant blacksmithing. I met with bankers in glass towers in Jakarta where, nearly two decades before Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with microcredit, Dunham worked on the largest self-sustaining commercial microfinance program in the world. I combed through tattered field notebooks, boxes of personal and professional papers, letters to friends, photo albums, the archives of the Ford Founda­tion in Midtown Manhattan, and the thousand-page thesis that took Dunham fifteen years to complete. I interviewed nearly two hundred colleagues, friends, professors, employers, acquaintances, and relatives, including her two children. Without their generosity, I could not have written this book.

I would add that Ms. Scott is a well-respected, serious reporter who has been writing for the NY Times since 1995, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for a series of articles on race in America. Her writings have covered a wide range of topics over a long career, including many articles on President Obama over the past 3-4 years. I have read many of them, which is why this book caught my attention.

My point is that this isn’t a fluff piece written by some hack out to make a quick buck, it’s written by someone who is respected in her field for her integrity & neutrality and who has done her homework.


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