I already posted this once and then deleted because it was taking too long to figure out exactly what I wanted to say and it didn’t come out sounding right. Instead of an opinion I’ll just give you the URLs and you can track down the stories and think about them quietly to yourself.
Recently several writers have been revealed as big fat liars. First, there was J.T. Leroy whose fake past included a stint as a truck-stop hooker and a drug-fueled time in San Francisco. I read one J.T. Leroy thing and thought he was a fawning nitwit. Turns out he was invented by a couple who claimed to have saved him from this life and was played by the man’s half sister.
Then there was James Frey whose tall tales were exposed by Smoking Gun and he got a good public flogging on Oprah for his trouble.
Then there’s the author whose fake name is Nasdijj who pretended to be a Navajo Indian when he wrote his heart-wrenching and totally made up memoir. The LA Weekly provides evidence that the writer is actually a former actor and gay porn writer.
Sherman Alexie read the memoir in galleys and quickly identified it as a fake. In spite of his objections, the book was published. When the author’s alleged true identity was revealed, Alexie wrote a piece for Time:
In 1999 a Native American writer, born fragile and poor on a destitute Indian reservation, published an essay, "The Blood Runs like a River Through My Dreams," in Esquire. It earned a National Magazine Award nomination and was later expanded into a memoir of the same title that became a finalist for a PEN/Martha Albrand Award. That rez-to-riches tale of courage and redemption sounds like a Horatio Alger story, doesn't it? … Of course, I'm biased, because, well, it's my story. Kind of.
Read the full story here.
On that topic, The National Review also does a story about people who claim to be Indian but are not claiming it’s “almost epidemic” which seems a little hysterical to me, but it’s worth a read.
Between 1960 and 2000, the number of Americans claiming Indian ancestry on their census forms jumped by a factor of six. Neither birthrates nor counting methodologies can account for this explosive growth. Instead, the phenomenon arises in large part from the increasingly idealistic place Indians occupy in the popular imagination. Much of it is based on harmless sentiment mixed into a hash of unverifiable family legends and wishful thinking among folks who hang dreamcatchers from their rearview mirrors.
The entire story is here.