An article in the L.A. Times recently caught my eye. It seems a Belgian writer has
admitted that she made up her best selling “memoir” depicting how, as a Jewish child, she lived with a pack of wolves in the woods during the Holocaust. Misha Defonseca’s book, “Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years” had been translated into eighteen languages and was even made into a feature film in France. It’s a story of survival. It’s a story of the horrors of the Holocaust. And it’s also a total figment of her imagination.
This offends me on many levels. Firstly, as a Jew. The Holocaust was heinous enough without people making things up. It offends me as a writer. When we write fiction, we hope to make a connection with the human spirit. And when we write fact, we strive to make sure our story is drenched in verisimilitude. But most importantly, it offends me as someone who was indeed raised by wolves.
I’m sure my lupine mother is turning in her shallow grave as word leaked out about Mrs. Defonseca’s spurious story. I called a friend of mine as soon as the news broke. He was raised by an American Black Bear, and they lived in a cave not too far from ours. He hadn’t seen the story and was as shocked as I was at Misha’s fabrication. All of us who have been raised by wild animals share in this disappointment. My sister (raised by raccoons) choked on an acorn when I told her.
Defonsca joins the pantheon of others, most notably James Frey whose bogus bio, “A
Million Little Pieces” nearly brought down our beloved Oprah when she championed his sham of a “shocking true story.” These counterfeiters must be stopped. They put an erasable stain on all those who write poignant autobiographies, from “One Small Schlep,” the true story of the first man to walk on the moon (my Uncle Irwin) to “Going, Going Gone,” the memoir of the man who hit eighty-six home runs in the 2006 Major League Baseball Season (my cousin David Solomon).
We who have been raised by wolves (and there are hundreds of us) take umbrage. Ignore the posers. Listen to our stories. They’re real. And reality is the backbone of the genre.