• Christopher Caldwell in the Financial Times has an interesting insight into both Why She Did It and Why They Bought It:
She told an interviewer that her inner-city friends had said: "You should speak for us because nobody else is going to let us in to talk." But this, as it turned out, was self-delusion. It was Ms Seltzer who needed black gangstas to make her voice heard, not the other way around. People are intensely interested in the inner lives of American inner-city gang members. Rap music, the vehicle through which those inner lives are most plainly visible, has a large paying following in virtually every country in the world. The same cannot be said of the cultural products of white, middle-class creative-writing students from the San Fernando Valley.
• Sandy Banks of the L.A. Times analyzes why she found herself so offended by the whole debacle, and offers one interesting tidbit: Margaret Jones/Peggy Seltzer, the wannabe hardscrabble gangbanger, actually went to the same private school that educated Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
• Undercover Black Man (aka David Mills) reads the work of the woman who introduced Jones/Seltzer to her own agent, setting the publication of her invented memoir into motion, and finds that Jones/Seltzer has been lying for a very, very long time.
• And a blogger who calls herself ExpatJane has some of the smartest observations I've read yet on the situation. An adoptee from L.A. herself and an aspiring writer, Jane writes:
I'm adopted. The hoops my black parents had to jump through to adopt me were intense. If you want to verify my story, I know L.A. county has my adoption records on file. I have them. Yes, they couldn't request them directly, but why couldn't they ask Seltzer for this stuff? Honestly, if I were writing a story about my life, I would expect the publisher to ask me for some tangible proof about my background. Jobs demand academic transcripts, but it's unreasonable for agents and publishers dealing in memoirs to ask for documents?
I know that foster parents have to go through steps too and they get reimbursed by the government for taking care of these children in need, so there are surely a good number of black foster parents. However, I'm beyond certain that social services would try their damnedest to place a white child with a white foster parent. If the child were part "whatever" then they'd try to place that child with a "whatever" foster parent, but half-white, half-Indian gets placed with a black foster mother. Were there really ever that few foster parents? Really? (The L.A. CWS's Handbook on placing children in foster care.)
Is the NYC literary scene THAT whitewashed and politically correct that they were blinded to this race issue?
Reading her blog, I think Jane's story is a hell of a lot more interesting -- and, obviously, more real -- than anything Margaret Jones/Peggy Seltzer could invent.