Monday, March 3, 2008

telling stories not our own

well, this is disappointing. i read last week's nytimes review of love and consequences and i was looking forward to reading the book. from the excerpt, it seemed like an interesting, well-written book that dealt with issues of race, class, and gender, and might have been appropriate reading for a number of my classes on crime and delinquency. i also read the feature piece on author, margaret b. jones, and the life she created in eugene, oregon. it sounded nice.

unfortunately, it turns out the author fabricated the entire story. amazingly, no one caught the deception until after her "memoir" had been published and reviewed. as the nytimes reports:
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.

The problem is that none of it is true.

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.
this story just gives everyone involved a bad name. there was a compelling story to be told here, but why did the author have to claim it as her own? sometimes the real truth is found in fiction -- that's a lesson i learned in a journalism class as an undergraduate -- but the distinction between truth and fiction should always be clear. credibility once lost is likely gone forever. the publishers have recalled all copies of the book, so now the author has become the story after all, just not in the way she intended.

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