“If Bush and Blair can spin the truth about WMDs to justify bombing innocent people, then why can’t I spin Dalia’s story to save women from being murdered on a daily basis?” – Norma Khouri on fabricating her novel “Forbidden Love” about honor crimes in Jordan.
This quote comes by way of a review of the documentary film “Forbidden Lie$”, published recently in the Los Angeles Times. People probably still remember Norma Khouri for writing “Forbidden Love”, a “non-fiction” book depicting the honor killing of her best friend in Jordan – a tale that turns out was completely fabricated. The 2007 documentary depicts both scenes from the novel as well as the short-lived media controversy that surrounded Khouri’s fabrications, including snippets from her personal life such as being wanted by the FBI for real-estate fraud in Chicago. Khouri takes the filmmaker to Jordan in an attempt to prove her story to be true, but ends up (apparently) exposing her lies even further. The film is only now coming to North American shores.
I have neither read the book nor seen the documentary but if anyone has either I’d like to look at them and maybe write a proper review (especially the film).
However, remembering the controversy that surrounded this piece of work, the above quote got me thinking. Most were annoyed at how Khouri’s book essentially discredited or insulted the work of activists against honor crimes, as well as the real victims, as opposed to the fictitious. Since publishing the book, Khouri has been officially labeled as a literary con artist – no more no less. Her intentions have been deemed sinister, especially by claiming the story to be true.
But, the question I pose is whether it’s right to make up a story in the name of doing something “good”. The literary equivalent of a “white lie”. If there is a genuine desire to shed light on a subject that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, would making up a story, even as a declared fictitious piece of work – would that benefit the cause?
Khouri has been known to dig her own grave and the analogy she draws on in this quote is representative of that: who in their right mind, and in the name of vindication, attempts to compare themselves to Bush, Blair and Iraq?
Nevertheless, I’m forced to wonder if “white lies” are beneficial to causes, and more importantly, if intentions play a role.
In other words, let’s suppose that Khouri was a well-respected activist against honor killings in Jordan, much like say, Rana Husseini – and in her desire to highlight the cause and bring it to the world stage, she writes a work of fiction in which she declares her intentions behind doing so: would that change things?
Would intentions change the outcome?
Would the outcome serve the cause?
What do you think?
On a side, but relevant note: Rana Husseini has a book on the subject coming out next month.