May 5, 2017

Ivanka Trump, you sound confused


We’ve written a few times recently about Women Who Work, the new book by First Daughter Ivanka Trump that’s being eagerly promoted not by Trump herself, but by the seemingly non-Trumpian likes of Refinery29People, and, indeed, the Associated Press.

The book was published this past Tuesday, and, as it makes the rounds, some people are noticing that it incorporates quotes from a number of more respected writers, and they all seem to be used in… troubling ways.

Take, for example, Jane Goodall, the revered primatologist, conservationist, and author, who made news before the election by comparing Trump’s father to a chimpanzee. In the book, Trump quotes Goodall as saying, “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Samantha Schmidt reports Goodall’s response in the Washington Post:

Goodall said legislation passed by previous governments to protect wildlife—such as the Endangered Species Act, efforts to create national monuments and other clean air and water legislation—“have all been jeopardized by this administration.”

“She is in a position to do much good or terrible harm,” Goodall said. “I hope that Ms. Trump will stand with us to value and cherish our natural world and protect this planet for future generations.”

The book also quotes the faintly-icky-but-hardly-monstrous Deepak Chopra as saying, “In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you” (because of course Deepak Chopra has said that, and of course Ivanka Trump has quoted it). Chopra, who once infelicitously accused Trump’s father of representing “the racist, the bigot, the one who is prejudiced, the one who is full of fear and hatred, the one who represents the emotional retardation of a three-year-old,” told CNN’s Aaron Smith:

“Ivanka means well. She is in a tough position and it is obvious she knows what’s right and what’s not. Perhaps she will speak up to her father soon.”

Writing at NPR, Annalisa Quinn points to two more jaw-droppers. One concerns poet Maya Angelou, who in her memoir The Heart of a Woman remembers her mother’s advice to her before moving to New York City:

“Take care of yourself. Take care of your son, and remember New York City is just like Fresno. Just more of the same people in bigger buildings. Black folks can’t change because white folks won’t change. Ask for what you want and prepared to pay for what you get.”

In Trump’s book, the line is misquoted as “Ask for what you want and be prepared to get it.” It is offered as advice for requesting a raise.

There’s also a quote from Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, in whose novel Beloved a woman named Sethe escapes from slavery and lives at 124 Bluestone Road in Cincinnati. At one point, Morrison writes:

Sethe had had twenty-eight days—the travel of one whole moon—of unslaved life…. Days of healing, ease, and real-talk. Days of company: knowing the names of forty, fifty other Negroes, their views, habits; where they had been and what they had done; of feeling their fun and sorrow along with her own, which made it better. One taught her the alphabet; another a stitch. All taught her how it felt to wake up at dawn and decide what to do with the day. That’s how she got through the waiting for [her husband] Halle. Bit by bit, at 124 and in the Clearing, along with the others, she had claimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing: claiming ownership of that freed self was another.

In Trump’s book, this last sentence appears, in a cutesy font, as the epigraph to a chapter that asks, “Are you a slave to your time or the master of it? Despite your best intentions, it’s easy to be reactive and get caught up in returning calls, attending meetings, answering e-mails…”

This is all nothing new to Trump, who made headlines in September by crediting a famous quote from the Jewish philosopher Hillel, who lived around the time of Jesus, to Emma Watson.

While everyone’s got the right to be a moron, Trump has made herself an enthusiastic adjunct to the presidency of her like-minded father, and her ghoulishness here goes way beyond the fact that she has apparently written her book with all the scruples of a seventh-grader scribbling a bibliography in time for fourth period. She is a party to appalling anti-blackness in the same breath that she warps classic writing on race in America to sell an insipid brand of workplace pluck. She quotes one of the world’s most respected scientists and conservationists while advocating the plunder of both science budgets and ecosystems. She parrots lines about maintaining wellness while her father leads a charge to deprive of millions of access to medicine.

Ivanka Trump is just as much a peddler of backwardness and hate as the less camera-ready members of family’s entourage. And it would be a dangerous mistake to forget this just because, in the memorable words of Lauren Duca, “she looks like she smells good.”



Ian Dreiblatt is the former Director of Digital Media at Melville House.