A memoir by a white woman who claimed she was raised in poverty by a black foster mother and sold drugs for a gang in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood has turned out to be pure fiction, a newspaper report says.
In “Love and Consequences,” published last week by Penguin Group USA imprint Riverhead Books, author Margaret B. Jones writes about growing up as a half-white, half-Native American girl in South-Central Los Angeles in the foster home of Big Mom. One of her foster brothers, she writes, was gunned down by Crips gang members outside their home.
Jones also writes of carrying illegal guns and selling drugs for the Bloods gang.
Jones’s story came apart after her older sister, Cyndi Hoffman, saw an article in The New York Times about the author and contacted Riverhead, the Times says. Hoffman questioned the publisher’s fact-checking and said the fabrication should and could have been prevented, the Times reported on its Web site Monday.
The publisher has recalled all copies of the book and has canceled Jones’s book tour, which was to begin on Monday.
Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is white and grew up in a well-off area of San Fernando Valley in California with her biological family, the Times says. She attended a private Episcopal day school and never lived with a foster family or sold drugs for a gang.
Jones, who lives in Eugene, Ore., also lied about having graduated from the University of Oregon.
Jones, 33, admitted to the Times that her memoir was fully fabricated. Many of the experiences recounted in the book, she told the newspaper, were based on the experiences of friends she had met while doing anti-gang outreach 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,” she told the paper.
An editor at Riverhead, in an interview with the Times, described the discovery as “upsetting” and as a “huge personal and professional betrayal.” The editor, Sarah McGrath, said she had numerous conversations with the writer about telling the truth.
“I’ve been talking to her on the phone and getting e-mails from her for three years, and her story never has changed,” McGrath told the Times. “All the details have been the same. There never have been any cracks.”
Jones didn’t immediately return a telephone message left by The Associated Press at her home on Monday.
The “Love and Consequences” scandal follows last week’s discovery that the Holocaust memoir “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years,” by Misha Defonseca, was a fake. Two years ago, James Frey, the author of an Oprah Book Club selected memoir, “A Million Little Pieces,” admitted he had made up or exaggerated details about his drug addiction and recovery.