First Look: Jenna Bush's book 'Ana's Story'

Jenna_lFirst daughter Jenna Bush’s nonfiction book Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope won’t be published until October, but the galleys have just crossed our desk, and we are, well, perplexed. The 25-year-old has said she based the book on a series of interviews with a 17-year-old, HIV-positive unwed mother she befriended during her stint as a UNICEF volunteer in Latin America last year. The resulting book, aimed at teens and young adults, means to educate and inspire, but it shocked us for a couple of reasons.

First is its sexual frankness.The book ends with a lengthy appendix that includes several tips on how teens can protect themselves against AIDS and other STDs, and it includes sentences like this one: "Whether or not you choose to wait until your married or older to become sexually active, give yourself as much time as you need to make a well-thought-out and mature decision." (Since the book is still in galley form, the final text may read differently.) It’s hard enough to imagine President Bush signing off on his daughter’s decision to take an unpaid position with the dreaded United Nations, but to have her return and repudiate the administration’s position that the only kind of sex education kids should be taught is abstinence-only — why, next thing you know, she’ll be marching against the war and the repeal of the inheritance tax.

Even more shocking: the book is good.

addCredit(“Jenna Bush: Theo Wargo/”)

Maybe too good. In fact, though there’s no ghostwriter listed, wehave a hard time imagining she wrote it herself. Not because nothing inher past anticssuggested she had a thoughtful, intellectual bent, or because sheoccasionally uses big words like "dichotomy" or references to thepaintings of Gauguin, but because the book is too smooth. Its languagehas a literary purity, and its narrative flows seamlessly back andforth between the interior and exterior lives of "Ana" and the peoplearound her, all of whom vividly remember offhand details of eventsgoing back to their early childhoods or verbatim quotations fromlong-ago conversations. It reads, in other words, like a very goodnovel for young teens; it’s hard to say even if "Ana" and the othersare real people, since the author has changed all their names (toprotect their privacy, she says) and doesn’t even name the city andcountry they live in.

Is it churlish for us to think this way? Suppose the whole book is abig fraud — doesn’t it still have the potential to educate largenumbers of teens? Then again, wasn’t that the argument that was made indefense of James Frey? What say you, PopWatchers?

UPDATE: D’oh! Commenters, don’t be so quick to blame that "your/you’re" error on Jenna Bush. That may have been my own transcription typo, not hers; I’ll have to go back to the galley and check. But even if that’s the book’s error, remember that this is a galley and that the text shouldn’t be considered final until the book comes out this fall. Then you may nitpick the book’s grammar and spelling to your heart’s content.


Comments (55 total) Add your comment
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  • Emma

    I work at a publishing house, and even if Jenna doesn’t have a ghostwriter, her editor could still have done most of the polishing and basically rewritten the book from the raw material. It happens all the time. I don’t know about the book being a fraud, since I haven’t seen it, but you’re right that it may still help a lot of teens, and I think she should be given the benefit of the doubt until the book is published. Just because her father is a crook doesn’t mean she has to be.

  • Grammanator

    Well, whatever polishing and/or editing has been done, I hope someone spots that typo in the quotation included: “you’re” not “your”

  • GingerCat

    The difference between Jenna’s book and James Frey’s book is that, even if his wasn’t all true, at least he actually wrote it himself. You will never get me to believe that a moron like Jenna Bush wrote a book, especially if it’s even remotely good. On the other hand, a phrase like “whether or not you choose to wait until your married” sounds like (or rather, is spelled like) something Jenna Bush would write.
    And I WON’T be buying the book. Sorry to get political, but I have no desire to be lectured to by a party girl whose dad took us into a needless war that has killed and maimed thousands.

  • Tim

    GingerCat is right. Chances are, it was written by a ghost writer. Most books written by so-called celebrities have a lot of uncredited help.

  • kat

    I have no idea if she did or did not write it (or received significant help), but why do we have to assume she is an idiot? Because we saw a few pictures of a college age girl having fun with her friends with a drink in her hand? I am an ivy-league eduducated woman with a successful career, and I can tell you there are quite a few similar pictures (and stories) floating around of me out there. I hardly think a few youthful indiscretions makes someone a moron. And having a moron for a parent definitely doesn’t, either.

  • sdr

    if jenna is a ‘party girl’ i guess that i am one too- and every other college student who has ever drank can be thrown into our category as well. come on- i am by no means a bush fan but calling jenna a moron is as bad as the right wingers who used to glee in mocking chelsea’s looks. you don’t know jenna, gingercat, and she has no role in the policies of the current administration. that’s fine that you won’t buy the book (i won’t either as i am not in its target demographic) but give the girl some credit. when is the last time you did the amount of volunteer work she has?

  • Strepsi

    I would be really glad if her volunteering has sobered her — in every sense. That would be great.
    Ghostwriter does not equal fraud – you can not name one single autobiography or business book that didn’t use one. Regardles, there’s a mega error in the single quote you share: it’s “you’re” not “your” and EW should’ve written [sic] if the typo’s hers.
    Meanwhile, is the US so far right that saying “whether or not” is radical? Unless Tip #1 is USE CONDOMS, ths book is a health fraud, which is more important.
    This piece is under-reported. Glad it’s good, but please give us more of her “tips on how teens can protect themselves against AIDS” (and please tell me she doesn’t sound as glib as EW to say “tips”!

  • furry_tom

    I hope that if it there is fraud involved, it doesn’t get exposed. It would just become an excuse to shift the focus away from the dialogue this topic (hopefully) creates to the scandal surrounding the book.
    I just think it’s refreshing to see someone related to the administration that isn’t, to borrow a catchphrase, a “major league @sshole” (At least regarding this subject, I have no knowledge of her politics otherwise).

  • Andie

    Ah come on. Give her a break. I think its wonderful she is writing a book AND its good. . . hopefully it is written just by her and kudos for her stance on protecting our children from STD’s by educating them . . . Back off the poor kid and let her have her shot

  • What?

    I Believe the point she is making about Sexual activity is, if you are going to do it, be smart, think, and don’t do it just because it’s there. Don’t treat it like a game.
    I watched a film about teenagers who for fun were having unprotected sex. At least 20 of them came down with the Syph. It was quite alarming for the “Bible Belt.” This is a true story. It happened in the 90s. It has become a sport these days to see how many people one can have sex with. “Hooking Up” spells,”I have no respect for my body.”

  • Ned Flanders

    I am in the camp of giving her a break. Let’s hope she can rise above her genetic disadvantage. It is humorous that the passage singled out here just happens to contain a punctuation error; wonder if it’s actually intentional (i.e. “proof” Jenna actually wrote it).

  • Stephen

    it sound sinteresting, but it is aimed at teens (i.e. the reading level) or will it read like an adult novel? and I just hope it won’t preach like some horrible health class film, or worse, a lifetime movie

  • GingerCat

    sdr, you’re right that I don’t know Jenna Bush, but she’s in the public eye, and I’m judging her on the behavior I’ve seen. And, as a matter of fact, I do hours and hours of volunteer work every month, and have been for years. You say I don’t know Jenna; well you don’t know me AT ALL, so don’t make it personal. Come up with a better argument than that.
    I stand by my original statement. Nothing I’ve seen about Jenna Bush makes me think she’s remotely qualified for something like this. If her twin sister Barbara had done it, I might feel a little differently. Barbara hasn’t behaved as badly as Jenna has.
    Also, the Chelsea comparison isn’t at all apt. Calling someone on their BEHAVIOR is obviously not the same as making fun of their looks.

  • Huh?

    Stephen, I hope you go for a regular check up.

  • GeeMoney
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