Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

News

Everyone Has Something to Say about Fake South LA Memoir

Stories like these are only possible with your help!
You have the power to keep local news strong for the coming months. Your financial support today keeps our reporters ready to meet the needs of our city. Thank you for investing in your community.

5b2bd8f64488b3000926b6dd-original.jpg

Sherman Oaks and South LA made national news yesterday when a Los Angeles native, now based in Oregon, became the latest decried author who penned a fraudulent memoir. Yes, Margaret Seltzer grew up in the Valley, no Margaret B. Jones (her non de plume) did not gangbang in South Central as her book said.

Today, the fallout came in the form of experts giving quotes to the media about this reoccurring theme. What first comes to mind is James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces," a book Oprah fell in love with before finding out the truth behind invented and exaggerated sections. The New York Daily News said Oprah's magazine also "gushed" over Seltzer's memoir in print. "While it was a great read, we now know that it should have been classified as fiction, rather than as a memoir, said Amy Gross, editor in chief, to the paper.

Earlier this week, Misha Defonseca acknowledged that "Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years," her 1997 book, was a fake-a-rooni too.

Support for LAist comes from

The LA Times highlighted a local book of lies by Danny Santiago, a white screenwriter who wrote "Famous All Over Town," about his life as a Latino in East LA. They also spoke to the author of "Slippery Characters: Ethnic Impersonators and American Identities" about this trend in memoirs: "There's a long American tradition of fake ethnic autobiographies that goes back to fake slave narratives in the 1840s," she said.

Over to the New York Times:

"It is not an industry capable of checking every last detail," said Ira Silverberg, an agent who represented J T LeRoy (without knowing he was actually Ms. Albert) and Ishmael Beah, author of the best-selling memoir "A Long Way Gone," who was recently accused by Australian journalists of distorting his service as a child soldier in Sierra Leone's civil war during the 1990s, a charge that he and his publishers have repeatedly denied. "So to present yourself as something you are not betrays all the trust."

Then the NYT popped this hilarious quote, regarding Seltzer's deceit, from Mimi Read, the freelance reporter who wrote last week's profile of Seltzer in the paper: "The way I look at it is that it's just like when you get in a car and drive to the store -- you assume that the other drivers on the road aren't psychopaths on a suicide mission."

But not to be topped by that, Sara Nelson, editor in chief of Publishers Weekly wins the prize for best (or way out there?) comparison in an interview with the NY Daily News: "One cannot protect oneself 100% from a dedicated hoaxster any more than one can protect oneself 100% from a dedicated terrorist."

Next week in scandals: The world finds out Diablo Cody really wasn't a stripper.