1.31.2010

TSS - Book Betrayal

I'm really bummed this week. Like, I cannot ever remember having this icky of a book experience.
Last weekend I went to my local library to peruse this shelves. I wanted to walk away with a book that I had no prior knowledge of so I was quite thrilled when I came across Burned Alive. It's an autobiographical account of a woman who grew up in a small village in Palestine. When she was eighteen her brother-in-law doused her with gasoline and lit her on fire because she was unwed and pregnant. The novel heavily exposed the punishments of the honor law held in these cultures. Souad's story was painful to read, heart-wrenching, and nauseating.
I finished Burned Alive in a day. And when I closed the book, I wanted to immediately write my review because the story was *that* powerful. It was important to me to present my emotional encounter with this book.
Things came up that prevented me from having the time I wanted to do this review. So, I put it off for Monday. And that's when it happened.

Essentially, I wanted to do a bit of an internet scavenger hunt because I am a self-professed ignorant individual when it comes to middle eastern politics. In part, that's why I was anxious to read this book. Instead of finding more information about Souad and her story, or the woman, Jacqueline who helped rescue her from Palestine and into Europe, I find articles debunking the memoir completely.
Now here's the thing, sure while I was reading it there were a couple of things that struck me as questionable. Most prominent in my mind was Souad's trip to the hospital after being severely burned where she claims that the doctors and nurses didn't give her any water or food because they wanted to kill her off, keep the honor code, not get involved, etc. I know basic physiology. Enough to know that we couldn't really survive without water for weeks. But, my justification for her thoughts and how they didn't mesh with what I know is, duh, she'd just been burned alive. She couldn't truly have been fully aware of everything that was going on while in the hospital room. In fact, I would guess she slipped in and out of consciousness quite frequently. I know I do when I just have a cold!
The articles brought up other evidence, like the treatment of the burn wounds, likeliness of her survival, and the village having a telephone. Yes, a telephone. a technicality that I read quite willingly because - in case you forgot - I'm IGNORANT of what type of technology other parts of the world have. If you tell me that a village has a phone, I'm gonna believe it. I mean, *I* have a phone. And *I*'ve had a phone all my life. Sure, I get that there are places that don't. But, really. If you say that you do, who am I to question it.
I'm not going to go further into the questionable-ahem-citations (except that Jacqueline and her volunteer organization no longer exists....) because, quite assuredly, it will just bum me out more!
And I've been trying to unbum myself since this past Monday when my bubble bursted.
I know I'm not the first. Hell,Oprah even got betrayed by Million Little Pieces. And perhaps the worse hoax that I've heard about is the book Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat (Rosenblat wrote that he met his wife while a concentration camp, invoking this incredible love story. However, in actuality, him and his wife were set up on a blind date in NY).
Gosh, I'm sure that there are even more books out there that I could find if I decided to do the research. I just don't think my soul could handle it.
And honestly, I guess, in summation to all of this venting/bumming/whiny I want to ask, simply, why. Why betray a willing audience? Why distort life? Why capture something in humanity that should be exposed and shared if it's not authentic? I mean really, how do they go to sleep at night?
I hope in the case of Souad, if the story truly was false, that people didn't send money to the organization to show support. That just makes the deed so dirty! I'm glad the book opened some doors for me to research honor killings; I just wished that I had a validated book to rave about because it pointed me in that direction.

7 comments:

  1. I'm pretty sure that book is fake. I read a review of it last year and thought, wow, how powerful, but I began to look it up because some things didn't seem to fit. I read a bunch of huge articles and realized there was no way that it could be true, especially as several of the facts were changed between different version of the book (like big facts like one said burns on 50% of her body, other ones 60%, others 80%). I've been to the middle east and I know honor killings happen of course but this just didn't add up.

    I felt really betrayed by Go Ask Alice, supposedly a diary of this young girl who gets into drugs and is trying to come out of it. Apparently it was written by a Mormon doctor who wrote a bunch of these as "warnings" for teens, always submitting them to be written by "anonymous" and made out to be true. I found out years later and that really ticked me off.

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  2. At least you found out before you published a review. I'm impressed that you took the time to research it first. I should do that with more of the non-fiction I read.

    I enjoy memoir myself, but I'm always a little suspicious of it. The ones that got me were Lillan Helman's. Too bad "Julia" turned out to be a lie.

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  3. How awful. I haven't read any books that have been full of lies as of yet, although I was truly skeptical of Angels in My Hair, especially when she said that she met God. Mmmm!

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  4. I read a lot of memoir, and would've been upset if I find out any of them aren't true! What happened to honesty?

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  5. THat is a bummer! I hadn't heard of this particular case.

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  6. Ugh, what an unhappy reading experience. I'm sorry!

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