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You've got to feel sorry for Ivanka Trump

Ivanka Trump Women Who WorkYou have to feel a little bit sorry for Ivanka Trump. She's brought out a book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the rules for success. So far so good: there aren't enough business books by women. Even if I did have a stab of unease at the title. (Here's a useful rule of thumb: whenever a title has 'woman' or 'women', substitute 'man' or 'men' and see if it still makes sense. Men Who Work? Hmmm, not exactly niching down, is it....) 

But the reviewers have not been kind. (Who'd have thought?)

Here's what they're saying on Amazon UK:

'The book gives us pleasant sentences with little meaning. "You only have one life, so live it fully'. References aplenty but we have read it all before.'

'Utter vapid drivel. From a woman who's never had to work a day in her life.' 

'This 'book' should have perforated pages. It would at least then have a reason to exist as something to turn to when the toilet tissue runs out.'

The traditional reviews pages are equally unenthusiastic. 

'a mashup of countless essays and articles written in the past decade aimed at female entrepreneurs' (Business Insider)

'not really offensive so much as witlessly derivative, endlessly recapitulating the wisdom of other, canonical self-help and business books' (New York Times)

But the thing that really interested me today, which one of my authors drew my attention to, is Huffington Posts's article on the way that she uses quotes so thoughtlessly in the book. 

The example they give is from Toni Morrison's harrowing novel Beloved, based on the real-life experiences of 19th-century plantation slave Margaret Garner, fictionalised as Sethe: 

'Bit by bit... she had reclaimed herself. Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.'

It's a powerful quote, even more so when you appreciate the context: a mother so desperate that she escapes with her children and then when pursued by her master kills her 2-year-old daughter in an attempt to save her from the future that awaits.

So it's difficult for anyone familiar with the quote to see white, privileged Ivanka use it without blinking to exort her readers to free themselves from the 'slavery' of continually answering emails. 

By all means use quotes in your book. But your responsibility towards others' words goes beyond simply crediting them: you have an obligation as a fellow writer to understand their context and meaning, and to respect it. 

This entry was posted on 05 May 2017 at 18:48 and is filed under writing | books. You can leave a response here.

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