Gillian Laub's Family Almost Split Apart During the Trump Years

Gillian Laub has published books of stunning photographs about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and about racism in the deep South. She also produced a documentary about the killing of a young black man by an older white man in rural Georgia.


For Laub's latest project, however, she got very personal. “Family Matters” is a story -- told through photos and words -- of how Laub's family nearly broke apart during the Trump presidency. But it's also a raw self-portrait.


“Those years brought out the worst in everyone and I'm part of that,” Laub said.


This is a book about something that many families have gone through over the past seven years. David Brooks put it pretty well in a recent column, but I'm going to tweak his language a little bit here. 'Think of your family: your parents and siblings and their spouses and children. Now imagine if many of those people suddenly took a political or public position you found utterly vile. Now imagine learning that those family members think that your position is utterly vile. You would suddenly realize that the people you thought you knew best and cared about most had actually been total strangers all along. You would feel disoriented, disturbed, unmoored. Your life would change."


That's a good summary of what Laub's book is about, within her own family. She begins by describing her grandparents and their story, with humanizing photos of her grandfather in a tiny pair of zebra print bathing trunks in his garden, and another of her grandmother's hand on her grandfather's rear end in those same tiny shorts. Her grandfather was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia who fled pogroms, and he built a real estate company in the Bronx. Laub describes the ways in which growing up she was both proud of and embarrassed by her family. She teases this tension out more as she describes the way that her husband's parents recoiled at the materialism and privilege in her family.


Then one day, Laub's father sent her a photo of him at a Trump rally. Over the next several years, she and her family came to the end of themselves. But in Laub's telling, they came out on the other side.


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