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Aussie Memoir Scandals

20 December, 2015

Wikipedia has a long list of fake memoirs from around the world. Three major hoaxes I remember here in Australia:


In this 1990 book, American author Marlo Morgan claimed to have gone on a spiritual pilgrimage with an Aboriginal group in the Outback. After protests by Aboriginal people, and then a court case, the book was re-issued as fiction (at least in Australia).
When it became popular, I was guest-teaching in a Midwestern college in the USA. My students, who said they loved the book, were very disappointed when I told them about the court’s ruling.

THE HAND THAT SIGNED THE PAPER. In 1993, a novel by Helen Demidenko won several of Australia’s most prestigious awards. She claimed that her book was based on real events experienced by her Ukrainian relatives during the Holocaust.

Later the truth emerged.  Her ‘true life’ was made up. And she was not Ukrainian. And her surname was not Demidenko, but Danville.

FORBIDDEN LOVE (AKA HONOUR LOST). This book, published in 2003, was written by Norma Khouri, a Jordanian-born American living then in Australia. Her memoir covered a period in Jordan when she helped a female friend, who fell in love with someone the family would not accept. Things went wrong, and the friend became a victim of a family honour killing.

Later, it was found that during the period covered in the memoir, Khouri was actually living in Chicago, not Jordan.

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