Maya Soetoro-Ng is a former high school history teacher, current university professor, and expert in comparative international education. She also happens to be the half-sister of President Barack Obama. Born in 1970 in Jakarta, Indonesia, she is the daughter of Anne Durham, Barack Obama’s mother, and Anne’s second husband, Indonesian businessman Lolo Soetoro. An accomplished educator in her own right, Maya’s work as a promoter of international relations would be amazing, even if she did not enjoy her presidential connections.
Early in her career, Maya taught history at La Pietra Hawaii School for Girls and at the Education Laboratory School, both located in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has also taught courses as an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawaii, College of Education, and between 1996 and 2000, she developed and taught curriculum at The Learning Project, an alternative public middle school located in New York City. She has also served as an Education Specialist at the East-West Center, an organization that promotes understanding between the United States, Asia, and the nations of the Pacific.
Maya published a children’s book entitled Ladder to the Moon in 2011. The book is a fantasy story about the president’s mother, cultural anthropologist Ann Dunham, and her adventures with Maya’s daughter, Suhaila. In the book, the pair help orphaned tsunami victims and, as the title suggests, climb a ladder to the moon. Maya said she first got the idea for the book when her daughter said she wanted to know about her grandmother–who she never had a chance to meet. Dunham passed away from ovarian cancer in 1995.
Maya is currently working on a book about peaceful conflict resolution aimed at high school students. She also oversaw the 2009 publication of her mother’s dissertation, entitled Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia, authoring the foreword to the book and presenting it at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association.