Subscribe to The Horn Book

>I Blame America

>For yet another made-up memoir. As a culture we’ve become convinced that only real stories are true stories, or do I have that the wrong way around?

Tangentially, does anyone else think it’s hilarious that the book tour for an addiction memoir is sponsored by Starbucks?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Anonymous says:

    >I don’t know if I blame America – I blame the American people for their complete loss of virtue and sense of personal responsibility.

  2. Anonymous says:

    >From the Times piece: “It opened my mind to the fact that not everybody is as they are portrayed on the news,” she said. “Everything’s not that black and white or gray or brown.”

    Indeed! I think we’re all sick of gray and brown portrayals of complicated events.

    Also I loved the idea of her chatting up the Black Panthers at Starbucks. Another grande soy carmel macchiato latte, Huey?

  3. >I find it totally hilarious that “Beautiful Boy” is sold at Starbucks. As a Starbucks addict myself (okay, go ahead and throw stones, but remember, I live in Iowa. Starbucks IS the best coffee here), I laugh every time I see that jumping boy on the cover.

    Re: the memoir issue. I have a simple solution: Let’s just call autobiographical literature what it’s always been: fiction. It’s easy. There’s no such thing as “truth,” at least as Americans would describe “truth,” in autobiography.

  4. >(My dissertation was on autobiographical literature written by 18th century Russian aristocrats in French. No truth there either.)

  5. Anonymous says:

    >I love the cheerful reader comment that now she can write a true story about being ratted out by her sister.

  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >oh yeah, Anon., there is definitely a story there. I hope we hear from the sister soon.

  7. Susan T. says:

    >In lieu of this morning’s news, take a look at the profile of Seltzer/Jones in last Thursday’s Home section of the Times. There you will read such gems as

    “The house smelled of black-eyed peas, which were stewing with pork neck bones — a dish from the repertory of her foster mother, known as “Big Mom,” whose shoe box of recipes she inherited.”

  8. >I’m sure there’s already been commentary on this elsewhere, but it’s interesting that both stories involve the appropriation of another racial/ethnic background… and that in both cases this seems related, somehow, to the romanticization of suffering. (Along with a whole slew of other prejudiced assumptions.)

    Maybe it’s true that we’d like a dose of the miraculous to help digest stories of horror and violence. But maybe we also have a fundamental wish to misunderstand horror and violence in the first place…


  9. Anonymous says:

    >We have a wish for the supposedly ennobling effects of suffering and injustice, and perhaps also for the romance of confession. All this without having to go through the actual trials, of course!

  10. Anonymous says:

    >I am addicted to books and I don’t care where I get my fix! I wish more parents were addicted to books and what a better America for our children we would have!


  11. Anonymous says:

    >In reference to the book Beautiful Boy, it seems a great fit to me to have a book about drug addiction become very present and out there in the world for all to see.
    As someone who went looking for factual and/or memoir material for this author to reference during his family’s time of need, I can honestly say that there is very little out there that was helpful to him.
    My hope is that his book, and that of his son, offer some relief and hope for those many others in the same, or similar predicaments.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >Hurrah for Kelly’s “simple solution.” OF COURSE autobiography is fiction! Why hasn’t this been known all along?

  13. >Doesn’t conventional wisdom state that it’s easier to sell publishers on memoir than it is on fiction? When the authors are caught, they try to put as good and profound a spin on the situation as they can, but with some of them I have to wonder if they weren’t just trying to use the system to get published any way they could. Some of these people may not be identifying with other groups, may not be romanticizing anything. They’re just trying to get away with something.

  14. Anonymous says:

    >Have you noticed how many more comments posts get when they allow for the expression of outrage and indignation?

  15. Christina says:

    >I’ve been having a related argument with my roommates lately, about truth and fact. I don’t think that something needs to be “factual” to be True, that something need not be Non-Fiction to be True. They would disagree– or at least, they don’t understand.

    Fiction, at least in my neck of the University Woods, is for those who don’t want to read about REAL things, for the dreamers. Everyone else reads history, or biographies, or autobiographies, economics, memoirs, etc, as if this adds a level of true gravity and seriousness to their perspective.

  16. Jeannine says:

    >People tell and believe all kinds of stories for all kinds of reasons, and we always have to bring forward our best judgment. The first issue of Notes from the Hornbook refers to Maurice Sendak’s tale of a woman who read Where the Wild Things Are over and over to a screaming child, and when asked why, said the book won the Caldecott. I believe Sendak said that, but, with no disrespect to the genius, I don’t believe that happened, at least not quite in that way. It makes a great story, and I’d retell it myself, but only with raised eyebrows.

  17. Roger Sutton says:

    >People certainly do polish their best anecdotes–it’s really fun to read Marilyn Horne’s and Beverly Sills’ respective accounts of their mutual appearance at La Scala!

  18. >Here’s another one! (It’s Kathy O’Beirne’s 2005 memoir, Kathy’s Story: A Childhood Hell Inside the Magdalene Laundries)

Comment Policy:
  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through (though some comments with links to multiple URLs are held for spam-check moderation by the system). If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.

We accept clean XHTML in comments, but don't overdo it and please limit the number of links submitted in your comment. For more info, see the full Terms of Use.

Speak Your Mind