I Wish I Could Say I’m Surprised
Last summer, I walked into a Barnes & Noble in Manhattan Beach to find a copy of Norma Khouri’s Honor Lost: Love and Death in Modern-Day Jordan prominently displayed on the main table. (In the UK and Australia the book was titled Forbidden Love.) I read the back flap and discovered that this was a memoir written by a Norma Khouri about her childhood friend and business partner Dalia, whose affair with a Christian man was discovered, leading to her being stabbed and murdered by her father. Norma, fearing for her life, managed to smuggle herself out of the country and escaped to freedom.
At the time, my instinct was to say, Goodness, is this what publishers want? More of these poor-oppressed-Arab-women-being-abused-by-their-men? Well, apparently, yes, that was what publishers wanted. The book was published in 15 countries and sold well, particularly in Australia where Khouri immigrated (her publisher helped out with her residency paperwork.) Australians even voted her memoir one of their 100 favorite books of all time.
Well, the cliche, it turns out, is false. And, according to The Age this Norma Khouri is a fraud. For starters, she has only lived in Jordan for about three years, as a toddler.
She has an American passport and lived from 1973 until 2000 in Chicago. She is married with two children, 13 and 11. She has four American siblings and a mother who are desperate to hear from her.
But she has managed to conceal this double life from her publishers, her agent, lawyers in several continents, the Australian Department of Immigration, and, until now, the public.
The 18-month investigation by Malcom Knox coincided with another report, this one coming from Jordan, and which found “73 serious errors and exaggerations.” Still, Khouri is undeterred. Her next book, A Matter of Honor, comes out in November.
Update: Here’s another fact-check, from the Sydney Morning Herald. And another one.