Going into reading Ivana Trump’s memoir Raising Trump, I had two primary objectives: First, to discover how the likes of Ivanka, and to a lesser extent Don Jr. and Eric Trump, were molded by their father, Donald Trump. Second, I wanted to get a sense of what President Donald Trump is like on an interpersonal level from someone who was once inside his inner circle. To save you the experience of reading her book, I’ll tell you what I learned.
Prior to the election, there were a few Hail Mary possibilities that opponents of the president counted on. Reports from a former producer indicated there were disqualifying statements on tapes from the set of “The Apprentice,” including rumors they were racist or anti-Semitic. There was the hope that the contents of his tax returns would become public and perhaps shady business dealings or the revelation that he was not nearly as rich or successful of a businessman would stop the Trump train. Another hope was that Trump’s ex-wives, either Ivana or Marla Maples, might come forward with stories of abuse from their time married to the man.
Ivana Trump was born in communist Czechoslovakia, and moved to Canada at 24 years old to escape. While working as a model visiting New York City, she met Donald Trump at a restaurant. Despite living with another man back in Canada, they stayed in communication, and soon, a relationship formed. “We had the same kind of drive and energy. Not a lot of people are like us, and we recognized those qualities in each other,” she explains.
Blowing Up The Mommy Wars
They are also two of the most narcissistic people in already highly narcissistic industries: business, show business, and politics. Normally when one writes a book, you put your best foot forward in order to at least appear likable. One would think an editor would steer a writer in the direction of framing stories and anecdotes in order to come across as relatable. Neither happened in this memoir.
The battles of the mommy wars are particularly hot points for female readers, and Trump did herself no favors to endear herself to any fellow mothers reading her memoir. On pregnancy: “I didn’t get morning sickness or other digestive problems. I only gained twelve pounds. Some women make pregnancy the excuse to eat ice cream non-stop.”
On how she labored more efficiently than any other woman in human history after an elective induction with their first child, Don Jr.: “I know my body well from being an athlete, so I contracted all the right muscles. I think other women bear down in the wrong places, like their earlobes or necks or cheeks. I put my energy where it counted. Ten minutes later, my son was born. The clock on the wall said five twenty p.m. start to finish, my entire labor and delivery lasted twenty minutes.”
On the breast versus bottle debate: “I didn’t breastfeed any of my children, not because I have anything against it. I just can’t imagine having a kid clamped to my chest for hours a day. It didn’t mesh with my work schedule.”
The Help Helped
So how did Don Jr., Ivanka, and Eric turn out so well, being raised by uber-wealthy narcissists? Given the fate of most children of the 1 percent, the odds were not in their favor. The Trumps, as a parental unit, did two things well: They hired caring and loving help, and they kept their kids on a tight financial leash.
Throughout the book, all three children chime in with anecdotes about their childhoods. (Their participation in the book is the first tell that there would be no excessive trash-talk about their father, who is now their boss.) Much of the warmth expressed in stories from their childhood is reserved not for Donald and Ivana, but for their nannies. Of one nanny, Eric writes, “Dorothy is my second mother. She’s raised me since I was a baby, and we are incredibly close—inseparable. I love her immensely. She’s a big, and very important, part of our family.”
Of the Trump marriage, there isn’t much to be gleaned. Of the Trump divorce, Donald is brought to the woodshed, though not nearly as much as Marla Maples, whom Ivana avoids naming, and instead calls “the showgirl.”
It’s easy to get the sense that the book was conceived of and written in approximately one week, after it became clear the market for a book about Ivana’s life would be not just about an ex-wife of an ex-presidential candidate, but instead the president. Given the poor writing (an actual sentence: “Canada, in case you don’t know, is freaking cold!”), it’s conceivable Ivana actually had a large hand in writing the book, and doesn’t hire ghostwriters nearly as well as she hires nannies. That seems to have made the book more true to life, but unfortunately for Ivana, that authenticity isn’t doing her any favors.