More Nonsense Memoir

March 4, 2008 § 7 Comments

Woman’s Gang Memoir Is Fake, Recalled

NEW YORK (AP) — A memoir by a white woman who claimed she was raised in poverty by a black foster mother and sold drugs for a gang in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood has turned out to be pure fiction, a newspaper report says.

In ”Love and Consequences,” published last week by Penguin Group USA imprint Riverhead Books, author Margaret B. Jones writes about growing up as a half-white, half-Native American girl in South-Central Los Angeles in the foster home of Big Mom. One of her foster brothers, she writes, was gunned down by Crips gang members outside their home.

Jones also writes of carrying illegal guns and selling drugs for the Bloods gang.

Jones’s story came apart after her older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw an article in The New York Times about the author and contacted Riverhead, the Times says. Hoffman questioned the publisher’s fact-checking and said the fabrication should and could have been prevented, the Times reported on its Web site Monday.

§ 7 Responses to More Nonsense Memoir

  • This kind of thing will continue to happen as long as we put such a premium on drama, as long as we continue to want sensationalism, whether it’s broadcast on Jerry Springer or published in supposedly literary books. Literary nonfiction, it seems to me, ought to be able to make even mundane life wondrously engaging. Virginia Woolf said: “The most common actions–a walk, a talk, solitude in one’s own orchard–can be enhanced and lit up by the association of the mind.” I want literary nonfiction driven by interesting thinking, not out-of-this-world living.

  • Grover says:

    I’m voting with my wallet.

  • Lisa Romeo says:

    I’m with Patrick AND Grover.

    We’ll never know if this is a good NOVEL or not because now I’m no longer interested and so I won’t buy or borrow it. Readers as well as publishers and book retailers, and the “memoirists” who make up entire lives, are getting close to ruining the genre by continuing to buy into the idea that any “truth” is preferable over well-done fiction.

    And I worry what messages this whole phenomenon sends to aspiring writers? That you must have a sensational (UNbelievable?) personal life story for it to be of interest? That every manuscript that has even a modicum of truth in it should be(marketed as) a memoir because that’s what the booksellers tell us outsells fiction?

    And don’t even get me started on the ridiculous claims by publishers that even routine, small scale fact-checking is either not financially feasible and/or could not be completed in a timely enough manner for publishing needs.

    One phone call — let’s say to the college she did NOT graduate from — could have alerted a publisher that something was amiss.

  • E. B. White, an essayist I will continue to read and teach, put it well:

    “If an unhappy childhood is indispensable for a writer, I am ill-equipped: I missed out on all that and was neither deprived nor unloved.”

  • The lying memoirist is (sadly) now old hat. Someone needs to write about the really interesting story: the older sister who dropped a dime on her.

  • Bradley says:

    This current obsession with sensationalism and melodrama in memoirs has caused me to revise my own manuscript; now, instead of ending with a meditation on life and marriage and facing an uncertain future, I am stabbed to death by a jealous, coked-out James Frey in an Albany strip club.

    Hey, it felt “emotionally true” to me…

  • brevity says:

    Bradley Says:
    March 7, 2008 at 11:26 pm e

    … I am stabbed to death by a jealous, coked-out James Frey in an Albany strip club.Hey, it felt “emotionally true” to me…

    Yes, and it will make a better movie!

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