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Arts and Culture

Truth or Consequences

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Posted on Mar 3, 2008

The gig is up: Margaret Seltzer’s real name and background were revealed in The New York Times’ March 4 edition.

By Steve Wasserman

We got snookered. Motoko Rich of The New York Times reports in her article posted March 4 that the just-published “memoir” by Margaret B. Jones, called “Love and Consequences,” about Jones’ “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,” is a fabrication.

Even the author’s name is a fake. “Jones” is apparently one Margaret Seltzer, who, according to Rich, “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.”

Riverhead Books is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled the author’s book tour.

Reviewers such as the Times’ chief literary critic, Michiko Kakutani, have praised the book, as did our reviewer, Yxta Maya Murray, a distinguished novelist and keen observer of L.A.‘s Lower Depths.

Oscar Wilde is said to have remarked that one should never let the facts get in the way of a good story. The author of “Love and Consequences” was apparently loyal to this dubious principle and to nothing else. 

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By Jim Rasmussen, March 7, 2008 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You didn’t read the story carefully.  She claimed to be half white, half native American raised by a black FOSTER family.

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By G.Anderson, March 7, 2008 at 12:22 am Link to this comment

I tend to think things like this happen, because some want to believe that there is something to be gained, some insight, to justify our own view of the world, from the lives of others who have lived in the streets. Some validation, because they try so hard to be a part of how we live.

To write a book, to get a normal job, to live a normal life just as we do, somehow putting the horrors of their childhood or traumatic event behind them, in an effort to be just like everyone else.

(This will be hard to understand.) If we could we would be just like they were, if we weren’t so afraid, that the simulcra of life we live in, would disapear leaving us without our charge cards, and our pretentions.

Then, no longer would the bad things, happen to someone else.

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By bill, March 6, 2008 at 9:57 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Half white half black? Were these editors blind? A look at her picture suggests that they heard what they wanted to and saw only dollar signs…

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By weather, March 6, 2008 at 1:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

another fraud at the end of a keyboard.
How very lovely.

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By RickinSF, March 5, 2008 at 9:54 pm Link to this comment

This was just a literary (ahem!) analogue to that lady in South Carolina who, a couple years ago, drowned her kids and blamed it on a black man. Why? Because she knew the authorities, media and white folks would buy it, and they did.  For a while at least.
Suburban whites buy books and they just love them some horror stories about the “other” side of town.

High marks for marketing savvy, Margaret.

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By Marshall, March 5, 2008 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment

Why don’t you leave up the comments from before the book was exposed as a fake?  These would be most amusing.

I also think it’s funny that gang status is now a sought after commodity by well-to-do white kids.  Has the left succeeded in legitimizing victimhood at last?

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By mackTN, March 5, 2008 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

Accepting a autobiographical mss from a first timer? Insist on ways to authenticate the story.  People have families and relationships that just can’t be faked. 

Most of the mss I worked on were always reviewed by outside authors and experts selected by the publisher, not the author.  Investing a few thousand dollars for this purpose can help not only editorially but with marketing as well.  New authors, eager to be published, will agree that these funds can be taken from futre royalties

In this case, I bet Riverend doesn’t look like America.

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By abutaza, March 5, 2008 at 11:47 am Link to this comment

Trust but verify!

Who would have thought that even Ronald Reagan might have had some insights!

Two major literary frauds uncovered in two weeks. PLEASE don’t say “make a fool out of me” (again). Make that relatively modest adjustment of approaching books and films with the same moderate degree of skepticism that you would with someone eager to refinance your house, or sell you a car.  It seems to be painfully necessary, since the publishing industry is clearly not only not doing the necessary background checks, but is almost certainly complicit in these frauds.

I’m certainly not an expert on South Central, or any other ghetto, but, sorry, how could a sentence like: “With the money from my first drug sale, I bought my cemetery plot” not be, of itself, a “smoking gun” that this is fraud?

Atonement?  Find the book that already has been written by someone living in South Central, and promote that. Uncover the next fraud now…. there ARE numerous others out there.  In short, be a CRITIC, and er… ah…. do not accept things at face value, but dig for the Truth as the website is often good at doing.

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By Ga, March 5, 2008 at 11:29 am Link to this comment

First, as others said, just what is wrong with publishing fictional personal stories? They can even add something like, “based on a true story.”

One must wonder how much the publishers and agents have to do with this, as we all know how much marketing and controversy is hyped (and fabricated) in order to get press and sell books.

It would be goo if one of the Truthdig staff, many of whom are book authors, write about the inside of the publishing industry. An expose is in order.

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By jackie, March 5, 2008 at 9:11 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is wrong with you? Do you really think she is doing any service to people who REALLY have gone thru these types of experience. How dare she manipulated people and take advantage of other people’s plight so that she can profit from it. She new that by advertising herself as part white and it being a memoir it would sell many more copies than if it was her as ANOTHER upperclass white person toting a novel about the underprivileged.

Yes it MATTERS that it’s false or not. That’s the difference between a MEMOIR or a FICTION NOVEL. No one would care if the stories aren’t true.

I’m so sickened by this woman. She obviously feels so lacking on her own life that she has to pretend to be someone else. And the lengths in which she went to do this is astounding. She has exploited South Central and the people living there.

She grew up white and privileged, what more does she need???  So pathetic.

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By Maani, March 4, 2008 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment


Yes, this does seem to be something of a trend.  And let’s not forget James Frey - famously touted by Oprah - and his largely fabricated “non-fiction” novel.


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By sns, March 4, 2008 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

it was a good read nonetheless.

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By e good, March 4, 2008 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How many white children get placed with black families? That was just the 1st give-away.  I did not read the book, but in the interview on Truth Dig she was just too literate, too well spoken to have grown up as she purported to.  I thought it was clear she was a fraud, and am trying to figure out your biases that would let you get snookered so easily by a young white “chick”.

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By art, March 4, 2008 at 8:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think Margaret should have told her family and said, look, this is what I am writing about and probably should have given them a cut of the profits. Then perhaps her sister would have kept her yap shut and not squealed on her. I think it was mean that she did that, you’d think she’d want success for her sibling. What a pig she is!
Who cares if it was false or not. It kept the reader compelled didn’t it? Did they publish it because they felt sorry for her or did they publish it because it was a good story. Do we really know for sure that books written years ago were all true and NOT fabricated at all?
I say give the woman back her book tour and keep her contract to publish.

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By Miguel, March 4, 2008 at 7:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Just the ‘American Way’! Make up lies that sound real good, make lots of money! In the case of Bush, though, make up lies about WMDs, and kill lots of Iraqi children, and their parents! Americans will believe anything! Just look how their being snookered about Iran, the next country on Bush’s hit list. Americans are believing this lie too. And, most Americans will witness more children being killed, though, this time Iranian children, and their parents. Americans, don’t you just love them?

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By dalloway, March 4, 2008 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Not that it’s any excuse for lying, but the book publishing business, like theatre, film and television, has morphed into a corporate nightmare driven completely by marketing, where executives have decided “truth” sells better than fiction unless you’re a well-established, best-selling novelist.  For a first-time author, it’s easier for them to find a marketing “hook” in true stories, ie. something to sensationalize.  As good as her prose apparently was, if the author had submitted this book to publishers as fiction, she’d have gotten nowhere.

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By Mark Welshons, March 4, 2008 at 6:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Has she never heard of the literary form known as the novel?  What is with these fake memoirs?  And, who the heck wants to read the memoir of anyone, even someone famous?

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By voice of truth, March 4, 2008 at 5:21 am Link to this comment

Too bad she didn’t write about the Evil Bush/Cheney regime, Zionist Jews taking over the world and how 9/11 was a government conspiracy, then we could ignore the fact that what she wrote was all a lie

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By cyrena, March 3, 2008 at 11:52 pm Link to this comment

Looks like it was just as well.

What’s UP with this phenomena of creating these huge stories that are total lies? It’s not like one cannot find this stuff, (and the real people attached to them) and simply write the truth.

It’s like ever since the ‘greatest lie ever told’ hit the WTC on 9/11…people wanna see if they can top it…just to make a buck.

So, we’ve got the lady with the Holocaust experience…turns out to be a lie. And now we’ve got this Sherman Oaks girl, (the epitome of upper middle class suburbia in So. Cal) claiming to be an ex-gang banger.

So, what’s up with America these days? Is everybody just living a lie? Been in the rabbit hole too long.

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