Sunday, May 15, 2011

Quote: Ian Buruma

From Ian Buruma's "A Free Spirit," a New York Review of Books review essay on Janny Scott's A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother (Riverhead Books, 2011):

"In fact, Ann Dunham [Barack Obama's mother] did not actually live in Kansas for more than a few years in early childhood. Her father, Stanley, a happy-go-lucky furniture salesman with a louche grin and dark slicked-back hair, took his family to Oklahoma, Texas, California, and Mercer Island, near Seattle, where Ann spent most of her youth. Stanley and his wife, Madelyn Payne, were anything but conventional. The grinning man who 'looks like a wop' was not considered suitable by Madelyn’s parents. So the young couple ran off to marry in secret. Madelyn saw herself as “a Bette Davis type.” Her brother, Charles, noted that she had wanted to get out of small-town Kansas ever since they visited the Chicago World’s Fair in 1934, where they were exposed to “art, anthropology, intellectual stuff.” Their daughter was named Stanley, not only after her father, but after the role played by Bette Davis in John Huston’s In This Our Life, a movie about drunkenness, suicide, and racial discrimination in the deep South, which was barred from foreign release by the wartime Office of Censorship. But she was generally known as Ann."

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