4 Profound Memoirs That Turned Out To Be Fake
We’re looking at you, James Frey. And so is Oprah.
Love and Consequences, by Margaret B. Jones
Supposedly taken from her parents at the age of 6 and placed in foster care in one of L.A.’s toughest neighborhoods, Margaret B. Jones’ Love and Consequences depicts the writer’s journey into gang life as a member of the infamous Bloods. While there were certain details that seemed rather farfetched – including Jones’ claim that though she herself was half-white, half-native American, she’d never seen a white baby until she had her own (conceived with the first white man she’d ever known) – the memoir was generally accepted as truth and loudly praised by the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and O Magazine. She also provided publishers with “proof” by introducing them to her staged foster siblings, and presenting what turned out to be fake photos and letters. Eventually it came out that Jones was actually Margaret Seltzer – a Caucasian suburbanite with a private school education. Which, needless to say, isn’t exactly Bloods-friendly.
A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey
The fake memoir heard around the world… In 2003 up-and-coming writer James Frey published his first novel A Million Little Pieces, a supposed memoir documenting a less than charmed time in his life as a 23-year-old alcoholic and drug addict trying to seek professional help while dodging various criminal warrants. With an impeccable writing style and a gripping plotline, the book gained worldwide attention rather quickly, skyrocketing to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and staying there for 15 straight weeks. But Frey’s prized piece really started to gain momentum when it was picked up by Oprah Winfrey for her televised book club. After publicly praising the writer for his raw honesty, Oprah was personally devastated when the Smoking Gun released evidence that most of the novel was entirely fabricated. Frey went on to learn his lesson the hard way: through a televised mental beating. Ouch. Despite the backlash, Frey has somehow managed to find continued success as a fiction writer.
Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
When you’re 15 you’ll believe just about anything, especially when it’s a terrifying look into the teenage drug world. Enter Go Ask Alice, the supposed diary of an anonymous LSD user. Detailing the female author’s sexual escapades, introduction to drugs, eventual runaway lifestyle, and unsuccessful road to recovery, Alice was the sort of cautionary tale parents would use to scare misbehaving children straight. And while that may have had a positive impact on some for that reason, it was eventually revealed that the story was highly embellished: the book’s editor was a Mormon youth counselor who later admitted that a majority of the story was based on various teens she had mentored. It is now classified as fiction.
Forbidden Love, by Norma Khouri
Norma Khouri took to writing to cope with her best friend Dalia’s honor killing in Jordan. Or so she said in the 2003 memoir Forbidden Love, which tells the story of Dalia’s love affair with a Christian soldier and her father’s deadly disapproval. Khouri explains how Dalia had to keep her love a secret due to her paramour’s lack of Muslim faith, which led her to use Khouri as an intermediary – hence the writer’s knowledge of the intimate details of the romance. Despite the fact that the two were only alone a handful of times and never officially consummated the relationship, Dalia’s father was said to have stabbed her to death upon hearing of the affair from his son. That led Khouri to check herself into an Australian asylum, where the story was supposedly born. However in 2004 Malcolm Knox – a literary editor from the Sydney Morning Herald – wrote various articles exposing the writer as a fraud. Turns out Khouri had not lived in Jordan since 1973, moving to Chicago at the age of 3 and spending most of her life there. Eventually Random House pulled the book off the shelves and a documentary was made about the hoax, despite the fact that Khouri never openly admitted that the story was fictitious.