Many many moon ago, I started and finished Unpresidented by Martha Brockenbrough. I waited, though, to write this review. I wondered if there could be a better time – a less divisive time – when writing a review might draw more people to read it. I surmised that during the Mueller investigation might not be the time to try and draw cross aisle readership. But I think I have come to terms with the idea that people simply won’t read what they don’t want to know. So for those of you who may believe in the value of our current Commander-in-Chief, I encourage you to read this book but I hold out little hope that you will.
If, however, you are a seeker, someone who would like to understand the what, who and why of the current administration, PLEASE buy or borrow Unpresidented.
There is a wide relevance in this treatise on the First Family. It is a history that tracks a familial ideology through to present day. It explains the background and morality our President was raised in and links that both to his distant past and to our present. If you are looking to learn the point of the Mueller investigation, you can dive right into page 263, when Special Counsel Mueller is appointed, and probably learn enough to be conversant on the topic. But the value of this book is not merely in the clear laying out of the issues. Nor is it as a cautionary tale for parents on how family politics and values shape our children. Rather the most valuable aspect of this particular book is in the Foreward coupled with the 50+ pages of Endnotes that allow anyone to go to the author’s own reference material and decide for themselves whether she made the right interpretation.
On that note, I do take umbrage with the decision (by author or publisher or editor, I don’t know) not to include the endnote numbers in the text. I realize those numbers can act as little interruptions in reading. They can possibly make a book less readable. But having them listed in the text body, referring directly to the source, would have enhanced the author’s point that “trust in basic facts is a vital part of civil society. Facts become the basis of our decisions, and good decision are made with verifiable facts” (xii) by allowing, even encouraging, readers to quickly verify the author’s assertions. At minimum, I expected to see the citations broken out by chapter. And I would have preferred an online guide (QR code readable) that linked to publicly available resources. For future editions, please consider this addition.
This book is primarily written for a Young Adult/New Adult audience. I would encourage all writers of non-fiction for this reading demographic to use contemporary citations (footnotes or endotes) for referencing. We need to make it easy for readers to use references and we should familiarize people with the format. Doing so creates an expectation in the minds of readers that factual books WILL have these citations.
Lastly, I would like to encourage Librarians, Social Studies teachers, Theory of Knowledge advisors, and anyone else teaching information literacy to consider using Brockenbrough’s Foreword to Unpresidented in their media literacy lessons. The author is concise and clear in explaining “facts are facts.” In this brief section, she logically and sequentially walks the reader through the Obama “birther” controversy – from media hype, to the official records, to WHY we should trust the records, to why we count on journalists to write “the first draft of history.” She also discusses the concept of fairness and why it doesn’t require equality of time or resources but should instead be considered an issue of accurate representation – the middle points of a scatter plot graph not the outliers. If nothing else, these few highlighted points (which are extremely relevant to the entirety of the book) are worth the price of purchase.