She is an educator, a mother, but Maya Soetoro-Ng is known to most of America as the President’s little sister. Now, she can add another title to that list: author.
On Tuesday, Maya Soetoro-Ng was in New York as part of a promotional tour for her new book, “Ladder To The Moon.” The book aimed at children takes a journey through the many of the places where a young Maya and young Barack spent their childhoods. The book’s title pays homage to their mother, Ann Dunham, who would wake the children up to look at the moon no matter where they were.
Dunham, passed away from cancer in 1995. The President has written about her in his memoirs and referred to her passing during his campaign for the White House. Her passing always left an indelible impact on Obama, who recalled her having to battle with insurance companies even as she was battling with cancer in her final days.
The passion for life Dunham possessed, is what prompted Soetoro-Ng to write “Ladder To The Moon.” Pregnant with her own daughter, she says she wanted to make sure her child would be able to learn about the grandmother she would never meet. In an interview with the Associated Press, Soetoro-Ng said she thought of her mother a lot during her pregnancy:
“…having come across boxes full of my children’s books and toys that she had saved for me. That moment was a great shuddering moment of love and longing. I really did want to somehow connect the two of them.”
In the book, Soetoro-Ng writes her mother was “like the moon…Full, soft and curious.” She says she named her own daughter Suhaila because it means “glow around the moon” in Sanskrit.
“Ladder To The Moon” gives a look into the childhood that has become subject of political attacks. While Donald Trump has been all over the news for his questioning the President’s citizenship, he is only the latest to join the throng of “birther” critics. Soetoro-Ng addressed those rumors with class and poise saying she thought they detracted from the discourse the country should be having.
“The facts are simply that my brother was born in the United States at the Kapiolani Hospital for Women and Children in 1961. His birth certificate has been authenticated by a number of sources. Really I feel that it behooves us to think about moving forward, and up, and really focusing on positive possibilities and solutions, and the facts are that my brother is a U.S. citizen.”
The President’s little sister certainly has a way with words, knowing just the right ones to use. Soetoro’s emphasis on using what we have in common to make progress is a poignant one, especially in a political climate that can often emphasize differences to spur division. And in many ways, the message of connectedness women through “Ladder To The Moon” is one the adults in this country could stand to heed as well.