Art and Entertainment


"Lost Child" Author Accused by Son, Press and Public of Humiliating Her Family in Print

March 12, 2009 04:14 PM
by Rachel Balik
British author Julie Myerson, already condemned for writing a tell-all book about her son, now admits to writing a newspaper column that revealed intimate details of her family life.

Author Lied About “Anonymous” Column

While most of the nonfiction scandals seem to involve authors making up stories and passing them off as true, British author Julie Myerson is enduring vicious criticism for exposing the personal story of her drug-addicted son in her new book, “The Lost Child.” The scandal over the book has encouraged publishers to release it two months early, and now Myerson’s publisher, Bloomsbury, is further embarrassed by her admission that she lied about writing an anonymous column. She claims that she was trying to protect her family when she said she was not the author of “Living With Teenagers,” a weekly column for U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

But the bad publicity for her book has left Myerson with little to hide. A columnist for London's The Times called the book “a comprehensive betrayal.” Minette Marrin implied that Myerson’s success as a writer was achieved at the cost of failing as a mother.

Her family and close acquaintances appear not to be surprised by the new revelation Myerson wrote the column, which exposed the most intimate details of her children’s lives in more than 100 episodes. Her work was thinly disguised; the Daily Mail reports that her son Jake’s classmates left copies of his mother’s column on his desk. But she continued to deny authorship, even to her children.

Meanwhile, her estranged son Jake calls his mother an addict, claiming the high she can’t live without is exploiting her family in her writing

Jake called the effect on the Myerson children’s lives “devastating.” In one column, she calls him self-absorbed because he is no longer interested in the family cat, and in another, criticized his teeth, which have become stained from cigarette smoke. When she adapted the column into a book (“Living With Teenagers: 3 kids, 2 Parents, 1 Hell Of A Bumpy Ride,”) even book reviewers expressed the hope that she had gotten permission from her children first.
In a column in The Guardian, Jonathan Myerson adamantly defended his wife’s right to tell their family’s story. He describes the emotional torture endured by Jake’s ongoing drug addiction and asserts that his wife’s writing may help support and educate families in England that suffer from a similar plight.

Related Topics: Mother Tells All and Fake Memoirs

In the United States, author Ayelet Waldman has also been criticized for writing pieces that could prove upsetting to her children later. For example, in a notorious New York Times Modern Love column, Waldman wrote about her sexual obsession with her husband far exceeded the love she felt for her children. She compared herself to other mothers in her parenting group and wrote that she felt ashamed of her lack of maternal devotion.

But for the most part, the book industry has been coping with embarrassments of a different kind: fake memoirs. Oprah Winfrey has been embarrassed twice now by authors who have written and published so-called memoirs. Long after enjoying the spotlight on “Oprah,” they have admitted that some or all of their stories were fabricated.

In an market where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a book deal, memoirs are easier to sell and frequently bring higher paychecks. The Oregonian book blog reviewed the case of Margaret Seltzer, whose gang memoir was a tremendous hit until it was discovered to be an elaborate hoax. The publisher apologized but The Oregonian reported that in many cases, publishers feel fact-checking is too expensive and time-consuming.

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