View Full Version : memoirs / "Margaret B. Jones"

03-04-2008, 11:50 AM
Yes, indeed. You'd think that "memoir" writers would have learned by now, after 2 major US memoir publishing scandals. Apparently not. Some are justifying their efforts now on the basis of "a civil good"....


Author admits gang-life 'memoir' was all fiction

The gripping memoir of "Margaret B. Jones" received critical raves. It turns out it should have been reviewed as fiction.

The author of "Love and Consequences," a critically acclaimed autobiography about growing up among gangbangers in South Los Angeles, acknowledged Monday that she made up everything in her just-published book.

"Jones" is actually Margaret Seltzer. Instead of being a half-white, half-Native American who grew up in a foster home and once sold drugs for the Bloods street gang, she is a white woman who was raised with her biological family in Sherman Oaks and graduated from Campbell Hall, an exclusive private school in the San Fernando Valley.

Her admission that she is a fake came in a tearful mea culpa to the New York Times, which last week published a profile of Seltzer using her pseudonym. It was accompanied by a photograph of the 33-year-old and her 8-year-old daughter in Eugene, Ore., where they now live.
[go to link for rest of story]

03-04-2008, 07:02 PM
Similar story in the New York Times today, too. Stunning stuff.


03-05-2008, 02:52 AM
This is exactly why, as I've been writing my memoir, I keep wondering if someone at the publisher is going to ask me for some proof! I mean, I write about how I love staying at home in my PJs, so why wouldn't someone suspect the whole bus thing was one big fantasy? As a result, I just put in the acknowledgements, "With all the controversy surrounding memoir these days, if doubt ever arises about the veracity of what is contained in these pages, rest assured I can provide appropriate documentation, including but not limited to: emergency room charts, police records and AAA bills."

I hope that's proof enough.

03-05-2008, 09:46 AM
The publisher cancelled the book, resulting in a considerable loss of money, not to mention the cost incurred for "damage to reputation", which it had been fortunate enough--courtesy of the writer's (whistle-blower)sister--to minimise.

Don't kid yourself. The acquisitions editors and publishers now have a problem on their hands, while the legal eagles and bean counters throughout the publishing world are preparing to defend themselves against further such occurrences (or are engaged in such discussion).

This whole genre is now being put in the major publishing houses' cross-hairs: writer-supplied supporting documentation, verifiable facts, checked by the in-house fact-checkers (if any available), to begin with.

Yet the reading public seems to love this genre, if and when it is all true. There's the rub, eh? What will be the next move from the major houses concerning this particular event, and for the future of the genre?

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode...

ETA: based on this subsequent article


it appears that there *was* some fact checking involved, though obviously not enough. As the article indicates, now there's the (expected) "blame game" going on.

New York obviously wasn't in the loop when the author's home town newspaper refused to run a profile on her when it discovered that she hadn't attended the local university as she had previously stated.

The journalists here indicate that the problem could have been avoided had the NY/NY-based editor met her author. And imply that class differences -- upper middle-class NY editor and lower-class author--might have something to do with the problem occurring.

In that the failure to do so prevented the NY editor from "sniffing out" a fraud from the "lower classes". Really? The journalists here imply that it would have helped avoid the problem; the quoted evidence strongly suggests otherwise.

As well as being arrant nonsense, it is clear where these journalists' sympathies lie.