books

4 Fake Memoirs That Fooled The World

Memoirs have always been quite a fascinating literary genre because the true personal accounts can have such a profound impact on our view of ourselves, others, and the world. Reading true tales, from Holocaust survivors who persevered through family separation and starvation to successful men and women who overcame social disadvantages and accomplished their dreams, memoirs can inspire readers tremendously. But what if those awe-inspiring tales were partially (or completely) false? While fabricating something so profound seems so unethical no one would dare do it, you’d be surprised.

 

Here are 4 popular memoirs that turned out to be fake!

 

1. Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood by Binjamin Wilkomirski

 

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Binjamin Wilkomirski’s harrowing and detailed account of his childhood spent in a concentration camp garnered critical acclaim and earned him several awards, including the National Jewish Book Award. As it turned out, it was all a hoax. Not only was Wilkomirski never in a concentration camp, but his name was a pseudonym and he was not, in fact, polish at all. Known as Bruno Doessekker, the author was born to Swiss parents and grew up in an affluent neighborhood far from the wretched conditions described in his book. The vivid details described created a debate amongst the public. Wilkomirski himself argued that any inaccuracies on page could be explained because the book was written after recovering his memories (which went undiscovered for years due to PTSD). While the some Holocaust survivors have stood by the author, many survivors, researchers, and psychologists have largely discredited his book. 

 

2. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)

 

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Go Ask Alice has been one of the most influential YA books since its release in 1971 as its first-hand accounts of teenage drug use, sexuality, and typical teenage angst struck a chord with young readers everywhere. Though it was initially marketed as a diary written by an anonymous teenage girl who later died of a drug overdose, controversy arose when the author was later revealed to be Mormon youth counselor Beatrice Sparks, who was one, an adult and two, very much alive. Sparks allegedly wrote the book as a cautionary tale to young readers and while she faced backlash for her deception and the content of the book itself has made it one of the most banned books, her book has nonetheless remained a YA staple. 

 

3. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

 

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James Frey’s emotional account of his issues with alcoholism and drug abuse was so addictive even Oprah Winfrey advertised it by selecting it for her book club. Soon after, The Smoking Gun published an article discrediting the accuracy of Frey’s book, alleging that many details were fabricated. Though Frey’s publishing company initially supported their author, they eventually began offering customers refunds. Though Frey admitted that he altered “small details,” he claimed his overall battle with addiction was truthful. Frey was eventually dropped by his literary agent, lost a publishing deal with Riverhead, and was critically lauded by Oprah Winfrey in a live confrontation. Frey’s second memoir, My Friend Leonard, a sequel to A Million Little Pieces, was also proven to be a fake memoir.

 

4. Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival by Margaret B. Jones

 

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Love and Consequences struck audiences as a heartwarming tale of a young interracial girl’s troubled life growing up in foster care, situated in a gang-ridden south-central L.A. neighborhood. This critically-acclaimed tale of perseverance and racial identity was swept into a firestorm of controversy when the author was revealed to be an educated white woman who had grown up in an affluent neighborhood and was nothing like she claimed to be. The author, whose real name is Margaret “Peggy” Seltzer, had used the second-hand experiences of the youth, whom she met while working to prevent hang violence in L.A., and may have gotten away with it had her sister not recognized her in an article about the book. Needless to say, the book’s publishers pulled it from shelves and offered refunds to customers who had bought it. Seltzer responded by saying that she simply wanted to use her opportunity to “put a voice to people who people don’t listen to.” 

 

Featured Image Via ‘Uvanyc’.