Supposedly, Seltzer wrote the memoir to give voice to friends who’d actually had experiences like those she described: “I just felt there was good that I could do and there was no other way that someone would listen to it.”
Here are some tips for the would-be Seltzers of the world:
- If you want to help gang members in the foster care system, volunteer with gang members in the foster care system. Don’t get famous pretending to be one.
- If you want to pretend to be a gang member in the foster care system, write a novel about a gang member in the foster care system. If it’s good, it will get published. If it can only get published as a memoir, it’s probably on the prurient side.
- Or, write a jou
rnalistic book that profiles gang members in the foster care system in the tradition of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family, a story about life in the hood that reads like a novel but was written by someone who never pretended to be from the hood herself.
Here’s a tip for the would-be publishers of the would-be Seltzers:
- Fact check, fuckers. We know you have the resources and the lawyers, so if you don’t, we know you want to capitalize on the author’s sob story, then capitalize on the scandal, then leave the author to clean up the mess on her own.
Here are some tips for readers:
- Read real memoirs by real former gang members, like Always Running by Luis Rodriguez and Monster by Sanyika Shakur. Know that they don’t always have happy endings. Rodriguez is a successful writer who speaks regularly and inspiringly to kids in juvie and runs Tia Chucha’s bookstore and cultural center. But at the end of Shakur’s memoir, he was still locked up, and in 2007 he was arrested again.
- Read real memoirs by people who are out about their whiteness and middle class-ness, like Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett and Another Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn. Know that they can have difficult and interesting lives too.
- Read fiction. Just because it didn’t happen doesn’t mean it’s not real.
Here’s a tip for gang members in the foster care system:
- Tell your story. Otherwise the Seltzers of the world—or your social worker or your probation officer—will try to do it for you, and no matter how good their intentions are, they won’t do it as well.