In “Love and Consequences,” a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child who went on to live a gang-banger’s violent life, wielding guns and running drugs for the Bloods.
The problem is that none of it is true.
Margaret P. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in well-to-do Sherman Oaks, in the San Fernando Valley of California, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in North Hollywood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.
In a sometimes tearful, often contrite telephone interview from her home on Monday, Ms. Seltzer, 33, who is known as Peggy, admitted that the personal story she tells in the book was entirely fabricated. She insisted, though, that many of the details in the book were based on the experiences of close friends she had met over the years while working to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles.
“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,” Ms. Seltzer said. “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.”
The revelations of Ms. Seltzer’s mendacity came in the wake of the news last week that a Holocaust memoir, “Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake, and perhaps more notoriously, two years ago James Frey, the author of a best selling memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted that he had made up or exaggerated details in his account of his drug addiction and recovery.
-Gang Memoir, Turning Page, Is Pure Fiction