All I have to say is, “What the hell?” I think the saying goes, “Fool me once and shame on you. Fool me twice and shame on me.” With that said, shame on the publishing industry for being fooled once again by fake memoirists. After the public ass-whooping Oprah gave James Frey, author of “A Million Little Pieces” and his publisher, Nan Talese, about the numerous “untruths” contained in the book, you would have thought that the publishing industry would have performed due diligence and implemented quality control/fact checking systems.
Oh but no, it was back to business as usual as we have come to find out now that couple of highly praised works have been revealed to be as fake as silicone breast implants. It’s not that these people, Margaret B. Jones (real name: Margaret Seltzer), author of “Love and Consequences” and Miriam Defonseca, author of “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years” are brilliant masters of deception who pulled some super mindbending wool of the unsuspecting eyes of editors, reviewers, publicists and agents. The truth is that upon examination of the premises and some of the details outlined in their works, you have to be blind in one eye and unable to see out of the other not to figure out something was up.
First let’s take a look at Defonseca. She claimed that she “lost her parents to the Holocaust and survived by living with wolves in the forests of Europe.” I don’t know about you but my “What the f**ck?” flag goes up immediately. The “raised by wolves” and feral child story is as old as time. I guess she figured no one was going to interview a wolf and what would he say anyway?
And dear Margaret Seltzer/Margaret B. Jones who was ratted out by her hater older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, who read sis’ splashy profile in the New York Times and may have thought to herself, “Oh hell to the naw. This beyotch ain’t getting away with this.”
And what was she getting away with? First passing herself off as half-native American and half white. Not so. Also, she claimed that she lived in foster care and ran with the South Central Los Angeles gang, the Bloods, and sold drugs for them. Once again, not true. She even had the nerve to lie about having attended the University of Oregon.
For some reason, not readily known us of who have “good sense”, as my grandmother would say, she was almost able to get away with it. I say “almost” because once the hoax was revealed, the publisher, Riverhead, asked that the books be returned and her book tour, which was set to start last Monday, was canceled. No word as to whether she will have to return the hefty advance.
In my public relations course, the students and I had a fun time picking apart good old Margaret’s claims. Like I said, you have to be a damn fool not to be a little skeptical.
Claim One: Her foster brothers were called “Taye” and “Terrell”. The mention of these names elicited a few laughs. Can anyone say, “Taye Diggs”, the actor and “Terrell Owens”, the football star?
Claim Two: And can you guess the name of her black foster mother? “Big Mom”. Stop right now before I get my belt and beat someone’s behind for such foolishness. “Big Mom”? I guess she got the name while watching a big black women in movies marathon which included the film, “Big Momma’s House”.
Claim Three: Shortly after she began selling drugs for the Bloods, she bought herself a burial plot. Enough already. Anyone knows that a true gangbanging heifer who is all about the paper would spend her hard earned cash on more temporal items such as a manicure or some fly gear perhaps from Baby Phat (Sorry, Kimora but you know I am not lying.)
My students also pointed out that the book sounded a lot the movie “Havoc” starring Anne Hathaway. I haven’t seen this movie, so I don’t know this to be true but anything is possible.
Why did Seltzer lie risking her reputation and future financial compensation? Here’s what she had to say as reported by the New York Times:
“For whatever reason, I was really torn and I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t listen to. I was in a position where at one point people said you should speak for us because nobody else is going to let us in to talk. Maybe it’s an ego thing — I don’t know. I just felt that there was good that I could do and there was no other way that someone would listen to it.”
Well, God bless her lying ass trying to pass herself off as the Great White Hope. Unfortunately, the truth is, she is probably right. Members of the very white, insular publishing community would dare not deal with — touch, speak to, answer the emails of — the real black and browns who inhabit the world of which Seltzer wrote. The only black and brown people the publishing elites probably encounter on a close personal basis are ones pushing their children’s baby carriages/strollers and/or cleaning their tawny Upper West Side and East Side enclaves. On some level, they probably believe that these men and women don’t have lives beyond work and if they did, they are not worth noting.
So until the publishing industry learns to climb down from the ivory tower, be openly skeptical fantastic admissions of truth and apply the most rudimentary fact checking standards to its nonfiction work, we will continue to witness examples of “when keeping it real goes real wrong.” (source of quote: Dave Chappelle)