by Skeratch aka Scratch
3. GO ASK ALICE
When this book hit the market in 1971, it caused quite a stir. Here was the diary of a troubled teen who had been drawn into the drug culture, had engaged in sexual promiscuity, and who had eventually died of a drug overdose. Finally, the world had a view into the troubling world that teens inhabited, full of drugs, sex, peer pressure and depression. And what a cautionary tale for those teens that ever decided to wear hippie clothes or use marijuana! The book was promoted as nonfiction, and its cover not only declared it to be written by “Anonymous,” but also proclaimed to contain “the actual story of a desperate girl on drugs and on the run who almost made it.” The book’s editor, a Mormon youth counselor named Beatrice Sparks started to appear in the media soon after the book was published. Finally, in 1979, Sparks admitted that she had changed the original diary of a young girl and that she had embellished the account based on her experiences with counseling troubled teenagers. The real protagonist, she insisted, had not died of a drug overdose, but may have committed suicide. Rather inconveniently, she had destroyed much of the original diary after transcribing it while the rest of it was locked away in the publisher’s vault. No relative of the book’s protagonist, if indeed such a person exists, has ever come forward to verify any part of the book. Sparks holds the sole copyright over the book and, rather than being listed as editor, she is listed as the book’s author at the U.S. Copyright Office. Sparks has made various claims to hold a PhD, but this has never been substantiated. She has published a number of other books that also claim to be the diaries of troubled teens but are, in reality, veiled morality tales. The most notable of these, “Jay’s Journal” is based on the journal of a young man who committed suicide. Jay’s parents were appalled when Sparks added bizarre and clearly fictional accounts of Satanism to Jay’s diary entries. Sparks denied that she had made these accounts up, claiming that she had based them on letters and interviews with Jay’s friends. Although Go Ask Alice is now classified as fiction, Sparks’ numerous other titles are trumpeted as non-fiction. Go Ask Alice is commonly on summer reading lists, and has been banned by many school boards, not because the author is a complete fraud, but because of its depictions of sex and drugs.
Asa Carter and Forrest Carter, it appears, could not have been more different. Asa Carter was a virulent racist, a man who had lost his broadcasting job in 1954 over his anti-Semitic comments. Asa founded and wrote for the polemical and racist magazine, The Southerner. In the era of segregation, Asa was a strong defender of the status quo, even taking charge of a Birmingham chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. An assault on Nat King Cole, the beating of a civil rights leader, the stabbing of the leader’s wife and the brutal castration of a black man all occurred under his leadership. Recruited indirectly by George Wallace, the Democrat, Asa even wrote the governor’s famous pro-Segregation speech: “In the name of the greatest people that have ever trod this earth, I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Forrest Carter, in direct contrast, was a gentle soul, a mustachioed Stetson-wearing cowboy with a soft folksy drawl. He was the storyteller in Council to the Cherokee Nation, a descendant of the Cherokee himself who told the story of his orphaning at a young age, and his noble upbringing by his Cherokee grandparents in his memoir, the Education of Little Tree.
But, although Forrest vehemently denied the connection to his racist past, Asa and Forrest Carter were the very same man. Asa Carter had no native ancestry, and members of the Cherokee nation have heavily criticized the inaccurate portrayal of their words and customs. The book has sold more than a million copies, before the rights were snapped up in 1985 by New Mexico Press, which has continued strong sales to this day. All of this, despite the book having been exposed as fraudulent almost immediately upon its publication. The book no longer contains the true story subtitle, nor does it mention Carter’s supposed role as a Cherokee “Storyteller in Council.” Since yet another expose of the book’s lies was published in 1991, New Mexico Press has reclassified the book as fiction, although there is no mention of the author’s dark past. It is difficult to divine Carter’s motivation for the book. Some have hypothesized that he wanted to atone for his racist past, others argue that beneath the tale of the noble savage is a veiled anti-governmental polemic, while others say it is just the hypocrisy of a an unreformed white supremacist. In 1994, Oprah Winfrey promoted the “very spiritual” book on her television show. Finally, in 2007, Oprah pulled the book from her list of recommendations, after learning the truth about Asa Carter.
Imagine, Adolf Hitler wrote over sixty volumes of a secret diary that was finally uncovered 34 years after his death. This would be an incredible find: personal handwritten entries that would provide insight into the mind of one of the twentieth century’s greatest villains. The German journalist for Stern Magazine who uncovered the story was enthralled by the possibility, and it all seemed plausible. The diary was supposedly recovered from the wreck of a plane that had been carrying Hitler’s personal belongings southwards. The journalist, Gerd Heidemann, verified the crash and also found that Hitler, upon learning of the crash, had angrily exclaimed, “In that plane were all my private archives that I had intended as a testament to posterity. It is a catastrophe!” Furthermore, it was claimed that the diaries had been in the hands of an East German general, having been found by him in a barn. It was believable that the diary had remained hidden for so long behind the Iron Curtain. Through intermediaries, Heidemann had contacted the supplier of the diaries and, with the backing of his magazine, had paid over 9.9 million marks for all sixty-two volumes. Stern Magazine had handwriting experts examine and compare the script from three pages of the diaries with Hitler’s handwriting. The experts concluded that they matched, and the jubilant magazine broke the story on April 25th, 1983. Other magazines, including Parismatch, Newsweek, and the the London Times, enthusiastically endorsed the story. Skeptics expressed their doubts, as none of Hitler’s inner circle had ever seen him keep a diary and Hitler was known to dislike writing. The Federal Archives of West Germany examined the notebooks, and found that the paper, ink, and glue in the diaries were all too recent to have been used by Hitler. All sixty two volumes of Hitler’s supposed diaries had been expensive forgeries, the work of Konrad Kujua, a forger specializing in duping collectors of Nazi memorabilia. Kujua claimed that Heidemann had known that the diaries were fake, but Heidemann claimed that he had been oblivious. Both Heidemann and Kujua were convicted of forgery and embezzlement, serving 42 months each.