Let's be honest about what we're both doing here, shall we? This is, ostensibly, a review of Ivanka Trump's new book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success. Generally, people read book reviews to find out if the book in question is good, but you knew before starting this—as I knew before reading the book—that it is not. While our current historical timeline includes any number of bizarre happenings, we don't occupy a universe in which Ivanka Trump writes a good book. Hell, we probably don't even live in one where she writes a book at all. One of the sillier fictions we collectively maintain is that rich, powerful people author their own work. Perhaps it's comforting to imagine that society's leaders are smart and articulate enough to write books, or that they care enough about the rest of us to want to share truths about themselves. It might be time to do away with that idea.
That Trump most likely uses a ghostwriter is worth pointing out, because the behaviors and achievements we read as markers of success, the bits made legible to the world, are often animated by all sorts of unseen labor. This is funny to think about, in the same way Peter Thiel wanting your blood has a delightful, metaphor-collapsing quality to it. Yes, this book is for women who work, but it's quite obviously for women who work particular types of jobs—the kind that inevitably make the world harder for other women. It is not for the nannies, or the housekeepers, or any other number of women whose work happens largely out of view while contributing immeasurably to how many successful women get to structure their lives.
Nevertheless, the authorship illusion produces some joy, since the book is a boring, dishonest, derivative pile of shit and we all get to pretend Trump worked very hard on it. Even if we imagine that Trump did sit in front of her computer and type each word, the majority of the ideas in Women Who Work come from other people. "I've curated my best thinking, as well as that of so many others, in the pages of this book," she notes in the introduction. These intellectually heavy-hitting others include "thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators" (oh my!) as well as a dizzying array of inspirational quotes. From Socrates to Maya Angelou, it's the sort of "curating" one might do by taking a wine-fueled trip through BrainyQuote at 2 AM.
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