My Lie: A True Story of False Memory

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9780470502143: My Lie: A True Story of False Memory
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Meredith Maran lived a daughter's nightmare: she accused her father of sexual abuse, then realized, nearly too late, that he was innocent.

During the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of Americans became convinced that they had repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, and then, decades later, recovered those memories in therapy.

Journalist, mother, and daughter Meredith Maran was one of them. Her accusation and estrangement from her father caused her sons to grow up without their only grandfather, divided her family into those who believed her and those who didn't, and led her to isolate herself on "Planet Incest," where "survivors" devoted their lives, and life savings, to recovering memories of events that had never occurred.

Maran unveils her family's devastation and ultimate redemption against the backdrop of the sex-abuse scandals, beginning with the infamous McMartin preschool trial, that sent hundreds of innocents to jail—several of whom remain imprisoned today.

Exploring the psychological, cultural, and neuroscientific causes of this modern American witch-hunt, My Lie asks: how could so many people come to believe the same lie at the same time? What has neuroscience discovered about the brain's capacity to create false memories and encode false beliefs? What are the "big lies" gaining traction in American culture today—and how can we keep them from taking hold?

My Lie is a wrenchingly honest, unexpectedly witty, and profoundly human story that proves the personal is indeed political—and the political can become painfully personal.

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From the Inside Flap:

My Lie

"To admit a grave sin committed against a loved one is hard. To be able to write about it with honesty and grace is extraordinary. My Lie tells a story no reader will—or should—forget."
KATHRYN HARRISON, author of The Kiss

Meredith Maran lived a daughter's nightmare. At age thirty-seven, an award-winning journalist and mother of two, she accused her father of sexual abuse. Ten years later she realized, nearly too late, that he was innocent.

She wasn't alone. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with the infamous McMartin preschool trial, a sex-abuse panic spread across the country. Tens of thousands of Americans became convinced that they'd repressed memories of unspeakable childhood sexual abuse. Preschool teachers, fathers, even mothers were falsely accused. Communities and families were devastated. Some perpetrators were rightly punished, but hundreds of innocents were sent to jail. Several remain imprisoned today.

Maran's accusation and estrangement from her father caused her sons to grow up without their only grandfather, dividing her family into those who believed her and those who didn't. She isolated herself on "Planet Incest," where "survivors" flocked to therapy—devoting their lives, and life savings, to "recovering" memories of events that had never occurred.

This no-holds-barred excavation of Maran's past raises questions of vital importance to us all. How did Maran, and so many others, come to believe the same lie at the same time? How does the brain collude with the culture to create false memories and encode false beliefs? What are the "big lies" gaining traction in America today—and how can we keep them from taking hold?

My Lie is the wrenchingly honest, profoundly human story of the impact of this modern-day witch hunt on one woman's life and family: a daughter's search for understanding; a journalist's intimate portrait of a shameful episode in American history.

"I accused my father of molesting me. I didn't see him or talk to him for eight years. I didn't let my kids see him for eight years, either. And then I realized that it wasn't true."

". . . my eighty-year-old father had been diagnosed with atherosclerosis, diabetes, depression, and Alzheimer's disease. With the possible exception of the diabetes, I blamed myself for all of it."

". . . suddenly, pretending it hadn't happened wasn't an option anymore."
From the Prologue

From the Back Cover:

Praise for My Lie

"Meredith Maran is fearless. She's also a wonderful writer, and My Lie is a shockingly honest, stunningly nuanced book. Every parent, and everyone who has a parent, should read this searing father-daughter story."
Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother and Red Hook Road

"My Lie is the brave and riveting 'inside story' of the most devastating mental health controversy of the century. I couldn't put it down."
Elizabeth F. Loftus, PhD, former president of the Association for Psychological Science; coauthor of The Myth of Repressed Memory

"Meredith Maran is a wonderful journalist and storyteller, profoundly honest, direct, witty, savvy, and compassionate."
Anne Lamott, author of Grace (Eventually) and Bird by Bird

"Only a writer as fierce and incisive as Meredith Maran could have written a book as intimate, dark, bracing, and revelatory as My Lie."
Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Manhood for Amateurs

"This marvelous, searing book held me in its thrall from the moment I read the Prologue, and never let go. Meredith Maran has written a page-turner of a memoir, at once brave and heartbreaking. Who among us hasn't questioned her own memory? In navigating her family history, Maran becomes a detective, and My Lie reads like a mystery all the more suspenseful because the writer has taken great care to tell the truth."
Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion: A Memoir

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