Maya Soetoro-Ng

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Maya Soetoro-Ng
Born Maya Kasandra Soetoro
(1970-08-15) August 15, 1970 (age 50)
Jakarta, Indonesia
Residence Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Citizenship American
Education BA, M.A., PhD
Alma mater Punahou School 1988,
Barnard College B.A. 1993,
New York University M.A.
University of Hawai'i at Manoa PhD 2006
Occupation Writer
Spouse(s) Konrad Ng (m. 2003)
Children Suhaila Ng (born 2004)
Savita Ng (born 2008)
Parent(s) Lolo Soetoro
Ann Dunham
Relatives Barack Obama (half-brother)

Maya Kasandra Soetoro-Ng (/ˈm.ə sˈtɔər ˈɪŋ/;[1] born August 15, 1970) is the maternal half-sister of United States President Barack Obama. Formerly a high school history teacher,[2] she is currently an Assistant Faculty Specialist at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, which is based in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Early life

Soetoro-Ng was born Maya Kasandra Soetoro in Saint Carolus Hospital, a Roman Catholic hospital, in Jakarta, Indonesia,[3] to Indonesian businessman Lolo Soetoro and American cultural anthropologist Ann Dunham. Her elder half-brother is the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. She has said she was named after American poet Maya Angelou.[4]

Soetoro-Ng and Obama spent several years together in Indonesia and in Hawaii before her mother decided to return to Indonesia with her.[2] After her parents divorced in 1980, her father remarried. From this marriage, Soetoro-Ng has another half-brother, Yusuf Aji Soetoro (b. 1981), and a half-sister, Rahayu Nurmaida Soetoro (b. 1984).[5]

While living in Indonesia, Soetoro-Ng was home-schooled by her mother and then attended Jakarta International School from 1981 to 1984.[6] Like Obama, Soetoro-Ng returned to Hawaii and attended the private Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii,[7] graduating in 1988.[8]

Soetoro-Ng attended Barnard College [9] in Manhattan, New York. She received an M.A. in secondary language studies and an M.A. in Secondary Education from New York University[10] and a PhD in international comparative education from the University of Hawaii in 2006.[11]

Soetoro-Ng has often spoken warmly about her relationship with her older half-brother, which she says has remained strong even though they have often lived far apart. As adults, they have often celebrated Christmas in Hawaii, and savor the time they spend with their families together.[2]


Soetoro-Ng is currently an Assistant Faculty Specialist at the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, which is based in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Dr. Soetoro-Ng teaches courses on: Peace Education; the History of Peace Movements; and Leadership for Social Change. She also oversees externships for undergraduates who are majoring or minoring in Peace Studies and coordinates the Institute's community and global service learning programs.

Soetoro-Ng was an Assistant Professor at the Institute for Teacher Education at the University of Hawai'i College of Education and continues to do some consulting work, promoting international exchange and understanding, in partnership with the East West Center. She authored a children's book, Ladder to the Moon, that was inspired by her mother and her daughter, Suhaila; it was published in 2011.[12][13] She is working on a book about peace education and a young adult novel entitled Yellowood.[2]

Soetoro-Ng was a high-school history teacher at La Pietra: Hawaii School for Girls and the Education Laboratory School, both in Honolulu, Hawaii. She previously taught and developed curriculum at The Learning Project, an alternative public middle school in New York City, from 1996–2000.[14]

In 2009, Soetoro-Ng helped bring her mother's dissertation to publication in the form of the book Surviving against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia.[15] She wrote a foreword to the book and participated in its launch at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting.


Soetoro-Ng's doctoral research at the University of Hawaii at Manoa focused on Multicultural and International Education. She examined the use of narrative to develop more complex understandings of identity in multicultural classrooms. She promoted the learning of Social Studies—history and current events—from multiple perspectives. She has developed and implemented peace education curricula in public high schools and for K-12 teachers in Colleges of Education. With partner Kerrie Urosevich, she conducts professional development workshops to share the Cedes of Peace with educators and families.[16] She co-founded a nonprofit Our Public School ( that works to build bridges between schools and the communities that surround them.

Obama Presidential campaigns

In May 2007, Soetoro-Ng announced that she would assist Obama in his campaign for presidency,[17][18] and took two months off to campaign for him.[19] She participated in the 2008 Democratic National Convention,[20] where she spoke briefly about growing up with her brother and brought an Asian-American presence to the stage.[21]

Soetoro-Ng also spoke briefly about the Obama administration's accomplishments at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 4, 2012, sharing the podium with First Lady Michelle Obama's older brother, former Oregon State University men's basketball team head coach, Craig Robinson.[22]

Personal life

In 2003,[23] Maya Soetoro married Konrad Ng (Simplified Chinese: 吴加儒), a Chinese Canadian from Burlington, Ontario, Canada.[24][25] Ng, who is of Overseas Chinese descent, is now also a US citizen.[26] He is the Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii's Academy of Creative Media.[27] They have two daughters, Suhaila[27] and Savita.

Soetoro-Ng has described herself as "philosophically Buddhist".[19] She speaks Indonesian,[28] Spanish,[29] and English.


  • Ladder to the Moon (2011) – a children's book narrated by Maya Soetoro-Ng and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The title of the book is taken from the 1958 Georgia O'Keeffe painting, which was depicted on a postcard the author was given by her mother.
  • Mixed: Portraits of Multiracial Kids by Kip Fulbeck (2010) – Soetoro-Ng is credited with writing the foreword.


  1. YouTube: Barack Obama's sister Maya explains the Hawaii Caucus.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Swarns, Rachel (July 31, 2009). "Obama and sister to share a town". New York Times. Retrieved September 6, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Obama Family Tree".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Clark, Paul C. (September 25, 2008). "Obama's Better Half Appeals To Women". Rhinoceros Times. Retrieved October 28, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Habib, Ridlwan (November 5, 2008). "Keluarga Besar Lolo Soetoro, Kerabat Dekat Calon Presiden Amerika/Lolo Soetoro's Extended Family, Close Relatives to American Presidential Nominee". Jawa Pos Daily.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Nakaso, Dan (September 12, 2008). "Obama's mother's work focus of UH seminar". Honolulu Advertiser. Retrieved May 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Half sister launches Hawaii family support for Obama".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Carlyn Tani (Spring 2007). "A kid called Barry: Barack Obama '79". Punahou Bulletin. Punahou School. Archived from the original on October 21, 2008. Retrieved March 12, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "On NPR, Susan Stamberg '59 interviews Maya Soetoro-Ng '93". Retrieved May 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Barack Obama and Joe Biden: The Change We Need". Konrad's Blog. Retrieved January 20, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Convention 2008: Siblings Of Barack And Michelle Obama To Speak Tonight". Democratic National Convention 2008. August 25, 2008. Archived from the original on September 25, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Obama's Half-Sister to Release Children's Book". NY Times. April 2, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Stolberg, Sheryl Gay (April 13, 2011). "Maya Soetoro-Ng Is the Latest Obama-Family Author". The New York Times. Retrieved April 13, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Convention 2008: Siblings of Barack and Michelle Obama to Speak Tonight". Reuters. August 25, 2008. Retrieved May 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Dunham, S. Ann; Maya Soetoro-Ng (foreword) (2009). Alice G. Dewey; Nancy I. Cooper (eds.). Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press. ISBN 978-0-8223-4687-6. Retrieved April 12, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "About Us". Retrieved November 26, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Obama's Sister Debuts as Campaigner –
  18. Chun, Noelle (October 30, 2007). "Watch Out, Hillary! If You Think I'm All About the Politics of Hope, Wait 'Til You Meet My Half-Sister!".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 Solomon, Deborah (January 20, 2008). "All in the Family". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Pelosi, Michelle Obama to kick off Democratic convention". USA Today. McLean, VA: Gannett. August 12, 2008. ISSN 0734-7456. Retrieved May 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Asian Dispatchers from the 2008 DNC". AsianWeek. Retrieved August 29, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "DNC: Remarks by Craig Robinson and Maya Soetoro-Ng". Bay News 9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Nolan, Daniel (June 11, 2008). "Relative: Obama's got 'a good handle on Canada'". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved July 3, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Closed access Nolan, Daniel (June 11, 2008). "Obama's Burlington connection". The Hamilton Spectator.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)
  25. Misner, Jason (June 20, 2008). "Barack Obama was here". Burlington Post. Retrieved July 3, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Cooper, Tom (January 20, 2009). "Keep watch for Obama". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved January 28, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. 27.0 27.1 Fornek, Scott (September 9, 2007). "'He helped me find my voice'". Chicago Sun-Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Green, Stephanie; Glover, Elizabeth (August 10, 2009). "Sister and niece act". The Washington Times. Retrieved September 6, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Goodman, Ellen (January 25, 2008). "Transcending race and identity". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 31, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links