Lies and Consequences

Everybody wants to be a gangsta.


Call it a comedy of editors. Looking back on the initial media blitz surrounding Love and Consequences, the auto-myth-ography by Margaret B. Jones (nee Margaret “Peggy” Seltzer), laughs come first, but anger comes hardest.

Take last week’s 2,000-word New York Times profile about the author and her tall tale of gang life in South Central Los Angeles.

In it Seltzer, acting as her hard knock life alter ego “Jones,” says her first, big drug-money purchase was a burial plot. She claims that a large pit bull tattoo is “the most ghetto thing” on her body, and that her daughter was the first white baby she’d ever seen. (Apparently Seltzer’s never looked at her own baby pictures.)

Seltzer’s home, according to Times reporter Mimi Read, smelled “of black-eyed peas, which were stewing with pork neck bones” and guests were offered the “house cocktail” — Hennessy and Coke — to wash down Seltzer/Jones’ homemade buttermilk cornbread.

Love and Consequences, explains the Times article headlined “Refugee from Gangland,” is a “visceral” tale of gang life in the inner city where Seltzer was raised by “a stern but loving black grandmother.” Her name is Mammy, er, “Big Mom.”

The cover of the now-recalled book shows a dark-skinned and gray afro’d older woman hugging an alabaster-skinned and pig-tailed little girl with her “giant, fat black arms” (as Seltzer describes Big Mom’s arms on page 46).

What’s so offensive, besides Seltzer’s boilerplate ghetto-isms and Harriet Beecher Stowe-style caricatures, is how easily and completely the media happily devoured them.

Within days of publication, the memoir earned that coveted publishing designation, “critically acclaimed.” Oprah magazine called it “startlingly tender,” NPR found it “heartbreaking” and an Entertainment Weekly reviewer found the book to be “a powerful story of resilience and unconditional love.”

To me, the first 50 pages feft like I’d watched Menace ll Society, Boyz n the Hood and South Central in close succession. Every word that, in English, begins with a ‘c’ is spelled with a ‘k’ instead. Here’s Margaret B. Jones’ description of her first few moments in Big Mom’s house, where the elder woman doles out steaming helpings of sugar-coated truisms: