The literary world is often spiked with scandals about truth – memoirs where fact and fiction are well and truly blurred. Ishmael Beah’s memoir A long way gone is the latest autobiography under attack. It has been reported that the Ex-child soldier’s literary bestseller is ‘factually flawed’. The Weekend Australian revealed that Beah appears to have been two years older than he claimed when he went to war (15 rather than 13), and served two to three months in the Sierra Leone army (not the two years claimed in his book). The academic who helped Beah with his first draft puts it all down to poetic licence.
Other debates on autobiographical authenticity:
Oprah Winfrey touted the grimy autobiography by James Frey – A million little pieces. But later it became apparent that the drugs, crime and murkiness had been “dirtied up” for dramatic effect. A tell-all report in The Smoking Gun says:
When recalling criminal activities, looming prison sentences, and jailhouse rituals, Frey writes with a swaggering machismo and bravado that absolutely crackles. Which is truly impressive considering that, as TSG discovered, he made much of it up. The closest Frey has ever come to a jail cell was the few unshackled hours he once spent in a small Ohio police headquarters waiting for a buddy to post $733 cash bond.