Love and Consequences is the latest made-up memoir to have the publishing world in turmoil. Just released in the US, the book is supposed to be Margaret B Jones' painful experiences as a half-black, half-native foster child in the toughest gang-banging ghetto of Los Angeles. In grim reality, she's Margaret Seltzer – an educated white woman from a middle class neighborhood, who was revealed as liar by her own sister. However, the true reality is that making up the truth is nothing new – it's been done for years and years.
Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years was written by Misha Defonseca in 1997. A bestseller around Europe, it was translated into 18 languages and turned into a French movie. However, the author admitted in February that her story of trekking across Europe with a pack of wolves during the Holocaust wasn't true. Apparently she's not even Jewish.
James Frey wrote his 2003 memoir, A Million Little Pieces, about his struggle to beat booze and drugs. Frey eventually admitted to fabricating large portions of the massive bestseller and left a fuming Oprah Winfrey apologizing to the world for initially defending him – the row culminated in TV showdown between Oprah and Frey, and the publisher Nan Talese. The book continues to sell well as a work of fiction.
JT LeRoy, aka Laura Albert, not only had a fake name but a fake background and even sent a friend to impersonate JT on book tours. Albert kept up the HIV-positive former drug addicted hustler double life for several years and managed to produced two more books, (Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things) before the truth was revealed.
Timothy Patrick Barrus wrote three 'memoirs' under the pseudonym Nasdijj - The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams (2000), The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping (2003) and Geronimo's Bones: A Memoir of My Brother and Me (2004). He claimed to be of Navajo heritage with abusive parents until LA Weekly revealed the memoirs to be faked.
In 1999 Michael Pelligrino fooled Simon & Schuster into thinking that he was Michael Gambino, grandson of Mafioso Carlo Gambino, and went on to write The Honored Society - a book that was supposedly based on his own experiences as a gangster. The lies were exposed when a legitimate Gambino family member heard about the book and put his lawyers on the case.
Binjamin Wilkomirski wrote Fragments, another supposed Holocaust memoir, in 1996. The book recalled the horrors of two Nazi death camps in Poland and won the National Jewish Book Award for an autobiography. In 1999, a historian investigated Wilkomirski and discovered he was actually a Swiss man named Bruno Grosjean, who had never been in a death camp.
Anthony Godby Johnson was credited for writing A Rock and a Hard Place in 1993. The story involves a 14-year-old HIV-positive boy who suffers sexual abuse. Anthony didn't exist and the story was fictional. Vicki Fraginals was the author and even impersonated the fictional child in telephone interviews.
Marlo Morgan caused a stir in Australia when she published Mutant Message Down Under in 1994. The book claimed to be a memoir of her time spent with Aboriginals. After protests by Aboriginal groups, large portions of the book were revealed as untrue and it is now published as fiction.
Forbidden Love (also called Honor Lost in the United States) was written by Norma Khouri (pen name of Norma Bagain Toliopoulos). It is the story of the writer's Jordanian friend whose love for a Christian soldier had been kept secret from her Muslim father. The father eventually finds out and stabs his daughter to death in a so-called honor killing. In 2004, Sydney Morning Herald journalist Malcolm Knox discovered the book was pure fiction.
Asa Carter, a white Ku Klux Klan member, published The Education of Little Tree in 1977 under the pen name Forrest Carter. The book is described as a memoir of Carter, who battled racism as a Cherokee orphan. It was later reclassified as fiction.
Clifford Irving forged letters and signatures and created false names for Swiss bank accounts in an attempt to earn $750,000 for writing a fake biography of the reclusive movie mogul Howard Hughes.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous is the diary of a teenage girl who died of a drug overdose. It was published as a cautionary tale to deter foolhardy teens from following in her footsteps. It was eventually revealed the book's editor Beatrice Sparks was the author and the anonymous girl was made up.
The discovery of Hitler's 'lost' diaries caused a huge stir in 1983. Historians thought they were real and The Times of London published extracts, but they were about as truthful as the diaries of Adrian Mole.
Maria Monk's book, Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk or The Hidden Secrets of a Nun's Life in a Convent Exposed, was published in 1836. The book is about the seven years that Monk spent at the convent of the Hôtel-Dieu where she was forced to have sex with priests who killed the illegitimate babies. Several investigations revealed her claims were false. Moreover, Monk herself was found to have suffered brain damage as a child and had trouble distinguishing fact and fantasy.
In the 1840s, Reverend Johann Wilhelm Meinhold claimed to have discovered a manuscript written by Abraham Schweidler, a former minister of the old Coserow Church. Meinhold then published the story of Mary Schweidler: The Amber Witch in German as a fact-based instructional document for the avoidance of witchcraft. Critics believed it to be authentic but the author eventually admitted that it was fiction.
In the late 1700s, Thomas Chatterton claimed to have found poems written by a 15th century monk named Thomas Rowley. When it was discovered Chatterton had written them himself, he killed himself. Chatterton's work was eventually published and he became a hero for romantic poets.
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