Brooklyn Public Library


(Non) Fiction?

Mar 26, 2008 9:17 AM | 2 comments

In January of 2006, a scandal erupted that everyone in the media from the Smoking Gun to Oprah was fuming about -- the liberties James Frey took in writing his nonfiction memoir, A Million Little Pieces. At the time, it was discovered that Mr. Frey had fabricated much of his criminal history as described in the novel, and fictionalized people, places and things throughout. So we decided to reclassify the book as fiction, and shelved the issue.

But recently, this same controversy has occurred and other authors, including Misha Defonseca, Margaret P. Jones (AKA Margaret Seltzer) and Ishmael Beah have been questioned about the veracity of their memoirs in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Village Voice, among others.

As a non-fiction buff, I read to learn the truth about history, and the people and places in it. Discovering that some of this nonfiction is anything but makes me think twice about reading a title. Although after the myriad articles, stories and a million little pieces about Frey, his book still sold. So ultimately, it will be interesting to see if this "outing" hurts these new authors, or helps them.  

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4/6/2008 2:10:03 PM #

I don't agree with the protests against authors whose memoirs are not true accounts of their lives.
I think that we all recollect events in our lives differently for many reasons and one being that the human memory doesn't recall an event exactly as it happened. Also people tend to embellish when they tell a story about something they've experienced in a verbal telling. I don't think it's so surprising to learn someone didn't tell the complete truth in writing their memoirs.

Maybe in the future it would just be best to market these books as fiction.

Sakinah Abdussamad

10/17/2008 9:38:59 AM #

There is something interesting about the difference between fiction and non-fiction. Even though something might be fiction, often the events, things, and characters in the story come from the author's own life expereinces. Whereas a memoir (or non-ficton) is defined as an account of one's personal life expereinces. Although, we often think of a memoir as an autobiography and assume that everything in a memoir is true, it can just mean that the author is creating something that is based on his/her life.

In sum, there is somewhat of a gray line between fiction and non-fiction.

Anna G.