Nasdijj, Native-American Memoirist

Status: Phony
image Here we go again. Another memoirist has been unmasked as a phony. This time it's Nasdijj, celebrated Native-American author of autobiographical works such as The Blood Runs Like A River Through My Dreams and The Boy and the Dog Are Sleeping. Turns out he ain't Native American, unless by Native American one means white anglo-saxon protestant. His real identity seems to be that of Tim Barrus, who grew up in a middle-class community in Lansing, Michigan. As Barrus, he was a pioneer of gay "leather" erotica, before the gay community got tired of his antics and he disappeared for a few years, only to resurface as Nasdijj. The Native American community has had its doubts about him for quite a while, since he never seemed to have a firm grasp on the nuances of Navajo culture. But he's been fully unmasked by Matthew Fleischer in an article in this week's LA Weekly.

So this month alone we've seen the work of JT LeRoy, James Frey, and now Nasdijj called into question. One common theme is that the work of all three was widely praised for its raw, brutal honesty. Given how artificial and pre-packaged much of our world seems, there's obviously a big demand for things that seem uncommercialized and genuine. But as we're seeing, this demand has provided a perfect opportunity for con artists who can cynically exploit it by serving up fake experience as the real thing. (Thanks to Joe Littrell for forwarding the link.)

Identity/Imposters Literature/Language

Posted on Thu Jan 26, 2006


I guess we all have Carlos Castaneda to thank for all of this.
Posted by BugbearSloth  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  03:57 PM
As was pointed out a couple weeks ago, it goes back further than that...
Posted by Joe Littrell  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  09:13 PM
I suspect it goes back as far as there have been memoirs and autobiographies. I seem to recall that Henri Charriere copped some flak for some of his embellishments in Papillon.

I'm thinking of writing my own memoir. I bet Oprah would be interested in hearing all about my adventures as a Cosa Nostra soldier in Sicily back when my Dad was the Pope...
Posted by Blondin  on  Fri Jan 27, 2006  at  08:51 AM
OMG. A double phony.
Posted by Lady Hedoniste  on  Fri Jan 27, 2006  at  11:27 AM
Actually, it goes back further than the "plumber from Plympton". In the early 1900s, an English writer named Archibald Belaney took on the identity of a First Nations person and eventually became known as one of Canada's greatest conservationists. The people of western Canada don't really mind that his persona was a hoax; we celebrate him anyway!
Check out the Wikipedia article
Posted by Don Sucha  on  Mon Jan 30, 2006  at  12:39 PM
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.