Monday, June 15, 2020

Review of UNPRESIDENTED by Martha Brockenbrough Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump ...

UNPRESIDENTED: A Biography of Donald Trump by Martha Brockenbrough (Feiwel and Friends, 2018)

What It's About: 

A riveting, meticulously researched, and provocative biography of Donald J. Trump from the author of Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary.

Born into a family of privilege and wealth, he was sent to military school at the age of 13. After an unremarkable academic career, he joined the family business in real estate and built his fortune. His personal brand: sex, money and power. From no-holds-barred reality TV star to unlikely candidate, Donald J. Trump rose to the highest political office: President of the United States of America.

Learn fascinating details about his personal history, including:

-Why Trump’s grandfather left Germany and immigrated to America
-Why Woodie Guthrie wrote a song criticizing Trump’s father
-How Trump’s romance with Ivana began―and ended
-When Trump first declared his interest in running for President

Discover the incredible true story of America’s 45th President: his questionable political and personal conduct, and his unprecedented rise to power. '

Opening Lines:
"Donald Trump sat in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor of Trump Tower in New York while his team worked to get him ready for his second presidential debate against Hillary Clinton. Trump didn't like preparing for debates. He hadn't practiced much for his first one and lost steam after the first half hour. To avoid another disaster, his team was taking another run at it. In the midst of this, the deputy campaign manager's phone rang."
The Mafioso's Verdict:
We Mafiosi are no strangers to venal behavior or abuse of power. In fact, the Don's respect for  politicians is in proportion for how much he spends to bribe them to do his bidding. A little palm greasing here; a smidge of pot sweetening there and voila! (But don't let him ever hear you call it racketeering. That'll earn you a trip to the harbor. It's called 'bidness.')

In the Don's view, however, Donald J. Trump is an amateur. He got a leg up from his daddy and promptly declared bankruptcy six times. ("He's worse than Fredo even," the Don's been heard to say.) Martha Brockenbrough, who started her writing career as a journalist and has gone on to write some excellent YA novels, such as DEVINE INTERVENTION, reviewed HERE in 2012, has done a tremendous job of excavating the Trump family history and exploring the themes which made Trump into the person he is today.

What comes through loud and clear is that Trump may have many weaknesses, but self-promotion is not one of them. Throughout his business career, he has worked hard to exaggerate his wealth. He works tirelessly to get his name in the headlines, suing the media and then soundly abusing them. Things I didn't know before I read UNPRESIDENTED, are that he's been desperate to make a mark in Russia since the late Eighties (his first trip there was in 1987), and that he's had his eye on the presidency since before 2000, when he ran on the Reform party platform.

Brockenbrough uses primary sources as well as Trump's own words and media appearances to unravel the ways in which Trump was able to use Russian influence to steer the 2016 campaign. In the chapter "Going Nuclear on Norms," the introductory quote is from his ghost-written bestseller, The Art of the Deal. Trump states: "I'll do nearly anything within legal bounds to win. Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition."

The deal he made, as those who remember the start of the 2016 campaign can attest, was to make inflammatory comments about Mexicans and Muslims. He mocked his opponents on Twitter and at debates, giving them sophomoric nicknames and commenting on their appearances. In this, he appealed to many Americans' anti-intellectualism and their expressed desire for people who "speak their minds." Trump appeared to be as far from a regular politician as it was possible to be. He thrived when making insults and unambiguous pronouncements. In short order, he emasculated Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and finally Ted Cruz, all three of whom had greater bona fides with the Republican establishment. Looking back from the vantage of nearly four years, it's amazing the way Trump was able to subdue the Republican party and make it the party of Trump.

Brockenbrough's hardback of Unpresidented takes us to the middle of 2018, before the midterm elections which won the House of Representatives for the Democrats, and which helped put the brakes on what was a runaway train--although without the Senate, the Democrats' oversight is severely hampered. A paperback version comes out in September and, as Martha Brockenbrough stated on her Facebook page, "it will have coverage of Trump's life through his response to COVID-19."

There are many books about Trump in the marketplace, and Brockenbrough's is among the best of them. With a clear-sightedness driving a straightforward narrative, UNPRESIDENTED would be a work to share with the whole family.

About The Author (from her website):
Martha Brockenbrough (rhymes with broken toe) is the author of two books for adults and ten books for young readers (with several others on the way).

A faculty member at Vermont College of Fine Arts and blogger for the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators, she's also  the founder of National Grammar Day (every March 4), and she's written game questions for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit.

The former editor of, Martha has interviewed lots of celebrities, including the Jonas Brothers and Slash (his favorite dinosaur is the diplodocus). Her work has been published in a variety of places, including The New York Times. She also wrote an educational humor column for the online encyclopedia Encarta for nine years. 

She lives in Seattle with her family. Her favorite kind of food is Indian, although Thai runs a close second. Besides writing, she likes board games, playing music with the family band, travel to places far and near, drinking lots of coffee, and working out really hard at the gym.  WEBSITE  Facebook  Twitter

(Photo by Emerald England)