A Conversation With
Laura M. Mac Donald, author of
THE VERY STRANGE DAY, a children’s book about Donald Trump
It’s not going out on much of a limb to say that if you’re a regular reader of the PLEASE KILL ME website, chances are you’re not a supporter of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz For President. Though what do we know? Maybe some of you out there are wearing “Make America Great Again” baseball caps along with your Ramones t-shirts. We try not to judge.
Whatever your political leanings, we can all agree that these are strange days in America. The line between reality and reality TV has been erased and the idea of “President Donald Trump” has gone from an amusing joke to a frighteningly real possibility. The more people he insults, the more popular he gets. How do you wrap your head around that?
For author Laura M. Mac Donald, the answer was easy: write a children’s book! In The Very Strange Day, she portrays Mr. Trump as the wall-building, immigrant bashing bully that he is. Ms. MacDonald, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, emigrated to New York City in 2000. She is a recently naturalized citizen and will vote in her first election in November. If Trump wins, she looks forward to being audited.
She is the author of several books, including Curse of the Narrows: The 1917 Halifax Explosion, which was a New York Times’ Editor’s Choice. She is currently at work on a novel about a dead hipster trying to get back to Brooklyn.
I spoke with Laura recently by phone from her home in Harlem.
Where did the idea come from to write a children’s book about Donald Trump?
I was speaking to a Latino immigrant and he was telling me that his children were frightened of Trump. I had this image of his kids trying to get to sleep at night. He has papers – but what about other families with kids thinking, “We could be deported”? It’s horrifying.
I started to write a poem for them. As it went on, I thought, “We’re all going to be frightened soon.” So I thought I’d write it as a straight satire about the campaign to show just how absurd some of the Trump’s ideas are.
There’s something about dramatizing him in action that captures both the amusement that Donald Trump provides and the cognitive dissonance you have because you’re finding him entertaining even as he says the most ridiculous things.
Who do you see as the audience?
(Laughter) I have no idea! It’s just something to amuse people – it’s my contribution – it’s the first U.S. election that I can vote in and I just felt like I had to do something, to contribute in some way. I couldn’t stand to hear Trump’s offensive language without trying to do my little part in response. What I didn’t want to write was a hand-wringing complaint.
I would love for immigrants to read it. A Spanish translation is currently in the works.
What do Canadians think of this U.S. election?
“He’s actually a very hard person to draw…the key was— I finally realized that he sort of has Wilma Flintstone’s hair. That curl in the front? It’s Wilma!”
When you’re in Canada, you don’t get the nuances; you generally get the worst of the worst press. If you’re inclined to dig deeper, you can read good, long-form pieces about the election, but you tend to see a lot of cable television clips. Here, you have a little bit better sense as to why things are the way they are. Having said that, Canadians are horrified.
The racist tone of things is pretty shocking for most Canadians. The sad, low level of public discussion – no one understands it. The U.S. is an amazing country, but there’s always this chaotic, circus-like atmosphere that is hard to comprehend.
Trump has insulted almost every possible group of people. Who does he insult in your book?
Well, he breaks into this Hispanic couple’s house and immediately assumes that they’re undocumented immigrants and threatens to deport them. Of course, they’re not; they’re from the Bronx. And he tosses around his usual sexist language as well.
The illustrations in the book are spot-on in terms of capturing Donald Trump’s physical expressions…
He’s actually a very hard person to draw. It took us a long time to get something we liked. The key was—I finally realized that he sort of has Wilma Flintstone’s hair. That curl in the front? It’s Wilma!
We [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][illustrator Bailey McGinn] were concerned that we were a little too kind to him but we really did want to capture the fact that there’s almost a kind of admiring his performance. I have a lot of respect for his ability to work the media.
I had the same experience with Sarah Palin when people first laughed at her. I thought, “No, she’s good at television. She’s going to be around for a bit.” Being good at television is a skill and Trump is really good at it.
Do you have a favorite Trump quote?
I think, “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass,” (Esquire, 1991) is really quite special.
What else would you like readers to know about your book?
I want people to know is that it’s hard to immigrate. I’m a white Canadian, and there were still cultural differences I had to negotiate. For people who don’t know the language and culture, it must be so difficult. Imagine negotiating the New York City public school system, if you don’t speak English, or are mistrustful of authority figures?
The people who belittle that experience talk tough but what’s really tough is driving a cab when you’re a doctor or cleaning someone’s house when you’re a teacher.
What’s also tough? Losing your childhood to war or not seeing your parents when they are dying. I have nothing but respect for the people who sacrifice what they know in the hopes that their children will suffer less than they have.
Todd McGovern is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY.