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Seattle Author Writes YA Biography of President Trump

A Q&A with Martha Brockenbrough about her new book, 'Unpresidented'

Jessica Graham

Published on: October 31, 2018

Book cover

Presidential biographies are often written about former presidents and focus heavily on these notable figures’ time as Commander-in-Chief. But Seattle author Martha Brockenbrough has taken a different approach with her new book, "Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump." 

In this new young adult book (out Dec. 4), Brockenbrough takes a critical look at our 45th president’s life before the White House. 

If you’re worried that the young readers in your life (or you, cough, cough) might think this sounds more like an assignment than reading for the sheer love of reading, know that social media — and Trump’s tweets in particular — are a big part of the book.

The result is a book that feels more current than some ancient tome. Indeed, the spelling of the book’s title —“unpresidented” vs. the correct spelling “unprecedented” — is a word that President Trump once used in a tweet about China that has since become part of pop culture lexicon. 

Regardless of your personal political leanings, President Trump is a complicated man and polarizing president. This book dives right into that controversy. Voters-in-the-making should draw their own well-informed opinions about the president and the numerous issues addressed in the book, and with the midterm elections less than a week away (Nov. 6) and the presidential election in 2020, this makes for a particularly timely read. 

Locals should note that a book talk and signing are taking place at the University of Washington Bookstore on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m.. If you can’t make the event, keep reading for a Q&A with the author.

I know the book is YA, but what type of reader will this book interest?

This book will interest readers of all ages — well, 12 and up, anyway — who are interested in the important issues of the day.

I dedicated this book to what I call the Parkland Generation: kids who take an active, passionate role in the world even if they aren’t yet old enough to vote.

But it will also reach adults who haven’t been political junkies but find themselves wanting a clear, concise and comprehensive look at Trump’s life, business record, campaign and early presidency. 

What made you decide to write a book about a sitting president?

Trump’s an unusual president. Anyone unusual is going to make an interesting story. Some of what makes Trump unusual, though, is dangerous for America.

Most presidential biographies for young readers tend to take a positive look at the men and women in office and their paths there, and after following the election closely and writing a biography of Alexander Hamilton, I realized that sort of book simply would not do. Young readers deserve the truth about the world, and even though there are a lot of uncomfortable truths in this book, I am proud to offer them. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned about President Trump?

His presidential aspirations go back a long way — to 1980, at least. His political values have never changed, even as the language he embraces has grown blunter and coarser over the years.

A poem he wrote in elementary school described how much he loved the cheering of the crowd. That quality in him has not changed.

It did surprise me to learn how bad of a businessman he is. I’d always believed he was accomplished in that regard, but his performance as a real estate developer is actually below average.

And, stunningly enough, he would have been worth more money had he never worked a day in his life and simply invested it. 

What kind of research did you do before writing the book?

I put in significant research for the book. There are more than 1,400 sources cited, and these include congressional records, newspaper and magazine archives, YouTube videos, government reports, books and tweets.

The book has been rigorously fact-checked as well, and I am confident it represents a reliable window into this point in history and the man who has come to define it. 

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