Sheila Miyoshi Jager

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Sheila Miyoshi Jager is the program director and professor of East Asian Studies at Oberlin College. In early May 2017, she headlined national news after a book revealed she had a relationship with Barack Obama during college. [2]


Early Life

Sheila was born on November 19, 1963 [21] in the Midwestern United States to parents of Dutch and Japanese background. [3]

Personal Life

She is married to historian Jiyul Kim, who is also an assistant professor of East Asian studies where he specializes in US foreign policy and the Cold War.  He was also in the US Army for about 30 years where he went off to assignments in Japan, Germany, and Korea. [4]

They both live together in Oberlin, Ohio with their children. [5]

Sheila Miyoshi Jager pictured on InkWell Management


Sheila attended the University of Chicago and received her Ph.D. in Anthropology in 1994. She met Barack Obama there and started a relationship. [7]


Being an expert in Korea, Sheila has written academic articles and committed to scholarly research on the subject for decades. Although she is an anthropologist by training, she is an Associate professor at Oberlin College and the program director for the East Asian studies department. [8]

Brothers At War: The Unending Conflict in Korea

In 2013, Sheila wrote a book titled Brothers At War: The Unending Conflict in Korea which has received praise from various sources. [16]

Relationship with Barack Obama

While she was in college, she met future president of the United States Barack Obama, and the two fell in love. In a book titled, Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama, Sheila becomes one of the main focuses in the early analysis of Obama's love life. In the early parts of the book during the years before Obama would go off to Harvard Law School, the two almost got married. [7]

Yet, she describes their experiences together as isolating, like "an island unto ourselves". Obama would compartmentalize his home life and work, which she rarely was able to meet some of his professional friends in social settings. She never had the opportunity to meet the pastor whom Obama was influenced by, Jeremiah Wright. They mostly socialized with their college friends. [8]

When they traveled together to meet her family, during an interval of their experience there, Obama asked her to marry him. This occurred in the winter of 1986. Ultimately, her parents were opposed because Obama came across to her parents as a sort of white middle class kid - that is, beta. They had a bit of concern for Obama's professional prospects. Her mother also thought that Sheila was too young at the time. [9]

A year later, in 1987, when Obama was 25, Sheila witnessed a change in Obama as she describes him as becoming highly ambitious. She was among the few people Obama disclosed that his goal is to become President of the United States. [10]

During this time, the two would have arguments about race, identity, and politics, infused with the question of whether they were destined to be together. During a summertime day when the two had traveled to a summer house with friends, the couple engaged in a loud and messy fight about the subject of Obama dating a white woman. Obama expressed that the lines for him are clearly drawn due to his identity. The two would argue much of the time at the summer followed by numerous bouts of makeup sex. [11]

When it was decided that Obama would attend Harvard Law School, their relationship was coming apart, yet Obama, in one last moment of desperation, he asked her to marry him. She felt resentment at Obama for presuming that she would postpone her career for his. [12]

She recalled that Obama would get angry if she ever called him Barry. [13]

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