Not Again, People: Margaret B. Jones is on that McNulty.

Guess this one’s coming off my reading list.

Last week, The New York Times profiled a writer named Margaret B. Jones in their House & Home section. Jones’ memoir, Love and Consequences, seemed like a fascinating one: a half-white, half-Native American girl who was raised in foster homes South Central L.A. before moving to Oregon for college. The book got rave reviews, including from the Times‘s notoriously hard-to-impress book critic Michiko Kakutani.

But, according to Motoko Rich, everything Jones wrote about in her memoir was a lie.

Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.

Riverhead Books, the unit of Penguin Group USA that published “Love and Consequences,” is recalling all copies of the book and has canceled Ms. Seltzer’s book tour, which was scheduled to start on Monday in Eugene, Ore., where she currently lives.

In a sometimes tearful, often contrite telephone interview from her home on Monday, Ms. Seltzer, 33, who is known as Peggy, admitted that the personal story she told in the book was entirely fabricated. She insisted, though, that many of the details in the book were based on the experiences of close friends she had met over the years while working to reduce gang violence in Los Angeles.

Didn’t she think she was gonna be found out? Her sister called Penguin after reading the Times profile and told them Margaret …er…Peggy was lying. How does fact-checking happen at a publishing house, if at all? Does anyone know?



Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs and reports on race and ethnicity for NPR's Code Switch team.
  • I’m still awarding points for originality!

  • Big Word

    She don’t look like she got any Indian in her family.

  • LH

    I tend to be dubious of people who explain *why* they lied.

    She said something to the effect that she didn’t think anyone would find the stories of the people they were (supposedly) about interesting. Doesn’t that point to her not thinking they were interesting?

  • Tiffany In Houston

    There’s a sucker born every minute.

    Evidently there are a bunch of them at Riverhead Books.

  • Damn, she had to figure she was going to get caught, it wasnt taht hard for someone to track down her history

  • I think that what all this is boiling down to is that the popularity of memoirs means that inevitably, people are going to make up personal histories for to sell books. Your own life story isn’t very interesting? But you want to write? Here’s what you do….

  • Pingback: Episode V: The Links Strike Back « Blurred Productions()

  • kr

    If she’d just called it fiction she might have been alright. But then maybe no one would bother reading it. I guess it has to do with why movies like to advertise themselves as ‘based on a true story’, regardless of how tenuous this base, people like to think life might be just as exciting as imagination.

  • Pingback: The Amanda Marcotte Controversy: Race in the Feminist Blogosphere. « PostBourgie()