Margaret B. Jones
In early 2008, a writer named Margaret B. Jones (1975) published ‘Love and Consequences: A Memoir of Hope and Survival’. This was a harrowing story of the author’s experiences as a foster child and a Bloods gang member in South Central Los Angeles. She recalled one of the most crucial lessons she had learned in her former life: ‘Trust no one. Even your own momma will send you out for the right price if she gets scared enough.’
In a review in the New York Times, accompanied by the headline ‘However Mean the Streets, Have an Exit Strategy’, critic Michiko Kakutani called the book ‘humane and deeply affecting’ and praised the author for writing ‘with a novelist’s eye for the psychological detail an anthropologist’s eye for social rituals and routines.’
The book was however a fabrication, and ‘Magaret B. Jones’ did not exist. (The author’s duplicity was exposed by her own sister.) ‘Jones’, as it turned out, was the persona of Margaret Seltzer, a thirty-three-year-old white woman living with her daughter in a four-bedroom 1940s bungalow in Eugene, Oregon. Seltzer had grown up with her biological parents in Sherman Oaks, California, and had attended a private Episcopal day school. She did not have a black foster mother whom she called ‘Big Mom’, nor foster siblings named Terrell, Taye, Nishia, and NeeCee. She was neither a Blood nor a Crip. An she had not, at fourteen years old, received a gun as a birthday gift.
Riverhead Books, the publisher of ‘Love and Consequences’, promptly cancelled the author’s publicity tour, recalled copies of the book, and offered refunds to those who had purchased it. For her part, Seltzer claimed that her intentions had been honourable. ‘I thought it was my opportunity to put a voice to people who people don’t get listen to,’ she said in an interview. ‘I was in a position where 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 an there was no other way that someone would listen to it.’
Seltzer wrote a great deal of the book at a Starbucks in Los Angeles.
Ciuraru, C. (2011), ‘Introduction’, Nome de Plume, A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, p.XXIII
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