Skeptic: This 'Fabrication' Shaped American Culture

But full story of 'Go Ask Alice' is more complicated than anyone realized, according to Rick Emerson
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 4, 2022 11:34 AM CDT
Skeptic: This 'Fabrication' Shaped American Culture
Image shows part of the cover of the book 'Go Ask Alice,' published in 1971 and attributed to "Anonymous."   (Simon & Schuster )

(Newser) – Published in 1971 and attributed only to “Anonymous,” the book Go Ask Alice was presented as the authentic diary of a teenage girl—the cautionary remnant of a life cut short by sex, drugs, and perhaps even rock ‘n’ roll. It broke boundaries with a raft of taboo themes, from LSD to underaged and homosexual sex, not to mention prostitution and beastly profanity, all culminating in the untimely death of a teenager overcome by a depraved lifestyle. The book has sold millions of copies, been adapted for screen and stage, and never gone out of print. It’s also a “fabrication and a fraud,” according to a Vanity Fair interview with journalist and Alice skeptic Rick Emerson.

His new book, Unmask Alice, delves into the life and career of Beatrice Sparks (1917–2012), variously referred to as a psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, Mormon youth counselor, and “editor” of the journal that was supposedly recovered by “Alice’s” parents. In an interview with KATU2, Emerson explained that Sparks' book “really created the modern young adult genre, and it solidified a lot of ideas about the war on drugs, especially among older people.” It’s a fact that Sparks came from a troubled background and likely waded into some sketchy waters, so maybe not everything was fabricated, but it's also a fact that Sparks' first literary hit dovetailed perfectly with Nixon's "war on drugs," thus the reason it's been labeled as mere propaganda by some critics.

Go Ask Alice was also the first in a long line of “journals” with Sparks’ fingerprint, including Jay’s Journal (1978), which triggered what came to be known as the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s. Both books, plus other supposedly authentic teenage journals that followed, "came out of the same strange place … this giant house with blood-red walls on the outskirts of Provo, Utah.” Emerson’s research led him to an unexpected conclusion, which he hasn’t divulged in interviews, but he insists it's “pretty amazing.” The book is scheduled for release July 5. (Read more literature stories.)

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