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on December 31, 2008
There are several things I cannot grasp about this. First-why not either: write the book anonymously if you were going to lie so blatantly, or write is as a fiction/reality 'interwoven' type story? Why BRAZENLY have interviews and photos splashed in the NY Times?? Did this person actually think no one from her past was going to come forward and identify her? I've seen footage of her being interviewed in her old 'hood'-and all I could conclude is that this person would do anything for attention. How sad that she lied to the publishing company for so many years!

How bizarre to go so far as to have pictures of fake dead relatives hanging in your home to show the interviewer from the Times? And be raising pitt bulls to further the ruse? And put your daughters photo in the paper? What is wrong with this person? It's a shame because the book was interesting, but I could not give it a good review because it is not a memoir of any sort.
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on January 17, 2015
This is a wonderful tale of complete bulls***. Cheers to you Peggy! You fooled the literati. They ate it up with a spoon.
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on March 4, 2008
The inside jacket of this book breathlessly attests to its raw authenticity, stating, "In an unforgettable voice that weaves stunning, forthright narration together with the distinctive, rhythmic slang of the street, Margaret B. Jones brings us movingly into the world of her youth - a world of gangs and poverty, but also of hope and survival - to create a memoir like no other".

No kidding...

Actually, as revealed by Cyndi Hoffman, Jones' (not her real name) sister, it's a memoir like no other because it's not a memoir - it's total fabrication.

Too bad.

Jones seems to have hoodwinked everyone so the publisher can be forgiven.

As the author (?) earnestly writes in the introductory "Author's Note on Language, Dialect, and Kontent", Please do not confuse the use of slang and my replacing c's with k's as ignorance or stupidity".

No chance of that.

It's clearly cleverness, but not quite clever enough to pull off the scam.

I want my money back.
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on March 19, 2008
I had ordered this at the library even before the newstories had come out about the fraudulent nature of both book and author. I had read an article in the NYTimes magazine, with many photos, and though I had no idea at that time of any fakery, I remember thinking how odd it was that a young woman who had grown up in the ghetto, and who identified as part of the black gansta culture, would have a rather expensive looking home, decorated ala Pottery Barn. Additionally, she stated that her 8 year old daughter "was the first white baby she'd ever seen, so at first she thought there was something wrong with her" and that she was concieved with the first white man the author had ever slept with. Both these statements sounded rather implausible: who (even from TV) has not seen a white infant? and she's had many black boyfriends, but only ever got pregnant by the sole white boyfriend she had?

However, that in and of itself was not reason to refuse to read the book or to consider it false. But by the time the book came in, the newstory had broken. I mention this because before I could read "Love and Consequences" with an open mind, I knew the facts behind the case. Therefore, it is impossible for me to know how I would have reacted to it without bias, or how it might have fooled serious reviewers such as NYTs Michiko Kakutami. There is a suspicion I have that reviewers were weighted down with the sense of "political correctness" -- that if such a book WAS real, it would be improper not to treat it both seriously and overlook its obvious flaws.

How to review it then? as a "fake memoir" or a sincere piece of fiction? By either standard, I am afraid that "Love and Consequences" is not a very good book. I think without the drama of believing it was a real memoir, by a real "gangsta girl", no publisher would have given this a second look.

Readers (if you can get ahold of what is now a fairly rare edition) should be aware that most of the book is written in an annoying "ghetto-speak", full of phrases like "I dint kno u mah nigga", "Dizzam!" and "Wasssup?" This is incredibly annoying and difficult to read, and mostly unnecessary -- how is spelling "know" as K-N-O indicate anything, since they are pronounced the same way? (Sadly, NPR interviews with Ms. Seltzer indicate she actually talks in this sort of contrived patois, though she was raised in an affluent white neighborhood by her real parents, and attended a posh private school.)

The story is rambling and full of inconsistencies. Young Maggie is taken from her mother at the age of six, due to vague charge of molestation. (It is never clear whether this really happened, or was a mistake.) No mention is made of a father, and Maggie/Bree quickly forgets her real mother and home. This strikes an unbelievable note: a six year old would know and remember her real parents and ask about them. We aren't even told if the molestor was her mother, or someone else. If not her mother, why was no effort expended to try and reunite them, as is the norm with foster kids? What ever happened to the mother? Maggie/Bree never makes an attempt to locate her, even after she is emancipated at the age of 16.

The author also describes herself as being half Native American and half white, and as looking Mexican (despite a book jacket photo that clearly shows a white woman with pale skin and light brown hair). It strikes me as unusual that a social service agency would place an attractive white child in the roughest ghetto in LA, or that a Native American child would not be returned to her tribe. None of these odd circumstances are even discussed.

You would expect the book to show the voyage the author made from selling drugs and violent street life, to getting into college, but it's more of a rambling narrative lurching from set piece to another: people and dogs get killed, her foster brothers get thrown in jail, they run out of food, etc. In other words, its pretty much re-enforcing most of the stereotypes that middle class white Americans already carry around about "ghetto life", rather than challenging them. A avid viewer of the TV series "The Wire" could have cobbled this together from a mishmash of details on that show.

The book also ends abruptly, around the time that Maggie/Bree magically gets into Oregon of all places. This had the potential to be the most fascinating part of the book -- how did a homegirl from a troubled background adjust to academic life, among privileged white classmates? Presumably she lived in a dorm, and on full scholarship -- how did that work out for her? How were her values tested and/or changed? But the book dodges all that by ending so suddenly and without transition or resolution.

In short, had I NOT known about the fraud behind the book, "Love and Consequences" was so dull and so hard to read with all the dialect, that I almost certainly would not have finished it, and by this time, it would be long forgotten. The only reason for reviewing or discussing it at this time is because there have been so many high profile frauds lately, that this one was discovered just as the book came into print and what it says on a much deeper level about the publishing industry -- how easily they are fooled when they see something they can exploit and "market", what an easy ride they give to authors who have a sympathic, handwringing sort of important an attractive author, with an attractive marketable story, IS today and how it utterly outweighs the requirement that a book be of high quality...that it be LITERATURE and not simply the marketing means to an end.

Now -- that's a subject for a really good book, and I hope someone will write it.
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on July 7, 2014
This fictional text marketed shamelessly as a memoir is just really awful. Even if it were presented as fiction from the start, there is still the concern that this is a poor and offensive approximation of a certain life and lifestyle that also needs to be critically considered.

For compelling fiction featuring mixed race protagonists in Los Angeles, consider Brian Ascalon Roley's American Son. For fiction in general that discusses mixed race issues, take a look at Danzy Senna's Caucasia, Heidi Durrow's The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, and so many others. For actual memoirs that deal with the issue in a more responsible way, try Rebecca Walker's Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self, June Cross's Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away, and the collection of essays entitled Half and Half: Writers on Growing Up Biracial and Bicultural.
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This book, billed as a truthful memoir of the life of a white girl raised by a black family in the South Central LA ghetto, is not factual, but is in fact the product of "Margaret B. Jones's" very febrile imagination. For starters: White children are not placed in black foster homes; the author claimed to be of mixed American Indian - White, but not a drop of the former made it into her face; that the first thing she did with the money from her first drug sale was buy a cemetery plot; that she had graduated from the University of Oregon, and the list goes on. Was the purpose to determine how naïve the reader, and more importantly, professional reviewers are of the true conditions in the ghetto?

Lessons abound. Clearly all too many professional reviewers do not read critically, and are prone to "groupthink." Why do so many reviewers, all at the same time, think a book like "Love and Consequences" is significant; worthy of a review, and not a single ONE detects anything amiss, when virtually everything is. Why must the reading public rely on a truthful sister to reveal the true facts?

Should the average reader mourn the curtailment of book review sections in major newspapers? Clearly a better solution may be reading rationale and thoughtful reviews posted at Amazon. With the prevalence of these incidents in the publishing industry, it stands to reason that more exist, waiting to be found.
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on March 4, 2008
First a disclosure. I've only read the first chapter of this book, for free, on the NY Times website. However, since this appears to be one chapter more than many (maybe all) of the damning reviewers, I feel justified in offering an opinion. So far the book seems to be a good read, very entertaining, and apparently fact based. As the author stated in a recent interview, the book is based upon information gained from her extensive interactions with Los Angeles gang members. In effect, it is a psuedo memoir a novelistic device with a long and respectable history. For example, I'm currently reading another psuedo memoir, Julian: A Novel and the fact that I know that it wasn't actually written by a 4th century Roman emperor, nor annotated by two ancient Greek philosophers in no way detracts from the pleasure of reading. True Ms. "Jones" didn't initially label her book as fiction, but the fact that she was actually able to fool her publishers, over a three year period, (as well as numerous mass media reviewers) into believing that this was a real autobiography vividly demonstrates just how convincing an artifice she has created.
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on August 23, 2012
The book is a poorly written, demonstrable fraud; the author has admitted as much. So why does Amazon still have a starred review posted on this page? Of interest only as an embarrassment to the publishing world. Why does Amazon still sell it: are they just whores?
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on October 14, 2008
I saw this at the library and picked it up, not knowing about all the publicity, which I'm surprised I didn't know, since I try to keep abreast of all things literary. Anyway, I did have some doubts about the foster care system placing her in that home, and why they would; about how she was able to stay in that home and never be removed despite Big Mom's struggle with caring for all of these foster kids (which I didn't understand, since she got money for them); that the lady in the gray suit would be taking her to visit someone in juvenile hall (she didn't have anything else to do?); and how she seemed to effortlessly blend in with the Bloods in the park and they treat her like she's one of them. I also was disappointed with not learning how she fared in college. She touched on it a bit but not enough considering how challenging it must have been.

Anyway, it could have been fiction if she did a little bit more research to make it flow and I'm mad that it was faked. What is up with everyone faking their life stories?
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on March 7, 2008
Last week while I was on a trip I read the initial NYT review of this book and decided to stop at a bookstore and buy it. While traveling I read it in just a few days. Now that I'm back home, I just read the NYT article (Mar. 4) that the book is not a "memoir" but rather ALL falsehood and the author is not even who she says she is...but is going by a false name.

I am shocked. The publisher knew her for 3 years, nurtured her, and fell for her fabricated story too. The NYT interviewer fell for her story. The author's excuses are very lame indeed and do not justify any of her lies.

I was a bit drawn into the story because there were a few connections with my own life - Oregon, background in writing, working with poverty-stricken families in Head Start. But I, in a million years would NEVER write and publish a story - of all these things mixed together - as a MEMOIR! Besides the fact that she grew up in a wealthy family and none of the experiences talked about in the "memoir" were actually hers, the book was also written very poorly. While reading it, I thought to myself, "this is written poorly, but the poor girls hardly had any education". Now we find out that, in fact, she had a private prep school education (Shame on you, too, Campbell Hall!). This is absolutely trash! We can be very glad that her own sister turned her in before she started in on her book tour. Perhaps they should make her go anyway - on a Shame Tour. Can we hope that the publisher will ask for the royalty check back? They should! So much of the story is false - but what really gets to me is that she talks about going to University of Oregon to get out of LA and earn her degree. Couldn't the publisher at least checked that fact?

As readers, we are lead along a path, gaining empathy and hoping for things to work out for this lonely, little girl who seems to have everything working against her. Yes, there are really people like that - but this author is NOT one of them.

As writers, it's easy to look at our own and our acquaintances' experiences and weave them to make an interesting story. That's what writers do. But we call them "novels", certainly not "memoirs"!

I want my money back and I just might return to the bookstore and demand it! Please DON'T buy this book!
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