Saturday, March 08, 2008

Memory Troubles (copy)

Note: I need to thank Sam Houston at Book Chase for this article idea. It was sometime last fall when Sam (I think) reported on Beah's timeline troubles in A Long Way Gone. Seems an Australian reporter did not believe his story because one year did not match Beah's uncle's recollection. We are talking 1994 vs 1996, and I totally see how time can be a problem in memoirs. Beah is forgiven in my eyes. But these others, bah!

I am currently between books, but deadline looms. For this reason, I decided to report a book controversy sweeping the globe. Remember James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces lie? Well, folks, it happened again. I am talking about authors who pass off false stories as truth in the form of memoirs.

Motoko Rich, a journalist for International Herald Tribune, reported, “In Love and Consequences, a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.”

Here is the truth: “Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.”

A week before this news broke, Misha Defonseca admitted her 1997 memoir, Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years, is fake.

According to Blake Eskin of Slate, “Misha is about a Jewish girl from Brussels who walked across Europe by herself during World War II and spent months living in the forest…Even if you forget for a moment that Defonseca has two prolonged encounters with wolves in war-torn Europe, her story strains credulity: She walks from Belgium to Ukraine, sneaks into and out of the Warsaw Ghetto, and stabs to death a Nazi rapist who attacks her—all between ages 7 and 11.”

Two decades after the European bestseller was translated into 18 different languages, a fact finder tried to research Misha’s family tree. The results exposed Misha, whose real name is Monique De Wael, is Catholic by birth and spent the war safe in Brussels.

This is a troublesome trend to read as a lover of memoirs. Memoirs, autobiographies, and biographies have a natural tendency for inaccuracies, but to fabricate a whole book is disgraceful.

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