The Atlantic published an extensive profile of Ivanka Trump on Friday, and it contains a fascinating and somewhat perplexing detail about the president's daughter and top adviser. In the article, journalist Elaina Plott reports that Ivanka had a book about Burning Man, the annual desert festival in Nevada, sitting on the table in her White House office when they met for an interview.
The book in question that Plott spotted was Playa Fire, a collection of photographs and stories from the decades-old festival. It's written by Stewart Harvey, whose late brother Larry Harvey founded Burning Man. Harvey tells Bustle that, although Plott was surprised to see the book in Ivanka's office, he himself is not.
"If you’re asking if I’m surprised that Ivanka Trump might have a copy of Playa Fire on her coffee table, I guess the answer is 'not really,'" Harvey tells Bustle. "Playa Fire is my thirty-year photo/memoir of the event my brother Larry founded in 1986, and if there is one constant that has held true during that long evolution, it’s that most people’s stereotyped idea of the event (especially those who’ve never attended), is woefully inadequate."
Plott writes that she was struck when she saw the book, as Burning Man "seems to represent the opposite of everything I had come to know about Ivanka." After all, Ivanka is the top adviser to a Republican president, and Burning Man — despite being attended by anti-tax activist Grover Norquist — isn't exactly known for its political conservatism: In 2017, only 5.4% of Burning Man's attendees were Republicans, according to the latest Black Rock City Census.
It's unclear whether Ivanka has ever been to Burning Man; Bustle has reached out to the White House for clarity. But Harvey tells Bustle that, although Burning Man does attract many liberal attendees, it's a more politically-diverse gathering that many people think.
"I’ve always been impressed with the utter diversity of those who choose to attend Burning Man," Harvey tells Bustle. "The event attracts participants from around the world and from every economic and political strata. Yes, the vast majority might fall into the socially liberal category, but politically they are all over the map. One of my favorite characters to talk with in First Camp is a well-known anti-tax conservative who loves Burning Man because he sees it as a triumph of individual initiative and private enterprise."
In March 2018, an exhibit called No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man opened for a nine-month stint at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Harvey says that he worked on that installation, and notes that it's only two blocks away from the White House.
"I’d like to think that Ivanka grew curious and walked over to the gallery to view this odd exhibit that was all about Radical Self Expression," Harvey says. "I’d like to think she became intrigued with an event that fosters art as a voice for collective expression and change regardless of ethnicity, gender or political orientation. I’d like to think she had Playa Fire on her coffee table because it provided her an insight into how all that came to be."