(If you decide that this whole issue is being taken way too seriously, please do go read the very funny spoof by Kenneth J. Harvey on the Times website!)
Anyway - I decided to see if I could find other memoirs which have pulled the wool over the eyes of readers (and publishers) and found, surprise surprise, that Frey is certainly not the first nor the worst offender.
First there's the case of Nasdijj. Purportedly of Navajo descent, Nasdijj wrote an ode to his adopted son who died of fetal alchohol syndrome. The piece, published in Esquire magazine was a finalist for a National Magazine Award and won him a contract for a full-length memoir. He went on to write two more volumes of memoir about his lifetime of suffering.
Except that Nasdijj was no more Native American than my left elbow, and his stories were largely lifted from accounts by other writers. The LA Times blew the whistle and outed Nasdijj as Tim Barrus a white-writer of gay erotica.
Then there's Binjamin Wilkomirski. His prize-winning memoir Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, was hailed as a classic and earned him comparisons to Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi and Anne Frank.
Except that he never was the holocaust survivor he claimed to be.
Author Daniel Ganzfried researched the case and discovered that legal documents and school records contradict the author's claims. Wilkomirski was outed in an article in Swiss publication, Weltwoche in 1998, and revealed to be a Swiss protestant called Bruno Grosjean. Unlike Barrus though, he appeared to be genuinely convinced of the truth of his story.
Another memoir fraud was unmasked in Australia's Sydney Morning Herald with the aid of Jordanian journalist and woman's rights activist Rana Husseini .
In her memoir Forbidden Love, Norma Khouri told the "true" story of the murder of a young Jordanian woman by her father because she dared to date a Christian man . The book was a great hit and sold more than 250,000 globally. In Australia, where the author has been granted asylum, it was voted one of the country's 100 favorite books of all time.
Her story was exposed as a fraud and as the Lebanese Times reports:
The scandal was a setback for advocates of women's rights in Jordan and provided a disturbing case study of how lies and distortions can masquerade as "fact" in Western discussions of the Arab world and Islam.and the book was withdrawn from sale.