Obama Reflects on Dogged, Flawed Mom

Reminiscing comes in profile about his time in Indonesia
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 20, 2011 1:05 PM CDT

(Newser) – Barry Obama was just 6 years old when Ann Dunham decided to take him to war-torn Indonesia, and Sunday’s New York Times Magazine examines the reverberations of that decision. On the surface the answer is simple: She was following her second husband, Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian native who’d been called back to serve in the army. But the article offers a revealing look at Dunham’s life there. Some tidbits:

  • The young Barack (then Barry) was subject to constant racial discrimination; once, when other children threw rocks at him, Dunham told a friend, “He’s OK. He’s used to it.”
  • When Lolo got a job with a US oil company, Dunham refused to socialize with the wealthy American wives of the other execs. She once complained to a friend that Lolo “was becoming more American every day.”
  • One former servant for the couple says that Dunham once emerged from an argument with her husband with a bloody nose—though author Janny Scott notes that no one else even hinted at any abuse in the relationship.

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But perhaps the most interesting part is Obama’s surprisingly candid reflections on his mother’s parenting flaws. “She was a very strong person in her own way,” he says. But “she was not a well-organized person. And that disorganization, you know, spilled over. Had it not been for my grandparents, I think, providing some sort of safety net financially, being able to take me and my sister on … I think my mother would have had to make some different decisions.” Click here for the NYT Magazine's cover image. (Read more Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro stories.)

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