She was too good to be true. Today we learned that Amina, the “Gay Girl in Damascus,” about whom I’ve written here and here, is not being tortured or raped or worse. In fact, she was never kidnapped at all, because she never existed as a woman of flesh and blood.
“Hoax” is such a harsh word, though undoubtedly that’s what she was. She was a marvelous creation, as attested by her ability to attract thousands of followers around the world. Is the poem in her last post, “Bird Songs,” any less moving because it was written by a man in the voice of a fictional woman? Amina inspired and delighted— more power to her creator, I say. What writer doesn’t dream of bringing forth a character so faultlessly developed, and a plot so compelling because of its timeliness and the verisimilitude of its mise en scène?
Yes, I’m sure many of her readers are feeling disappointed, hurt, even angry and betrayed. I understand that. But haven’t we all felt somewhat bereaved when we finally reached the end of a beloved book? MacMaster has apologized profusely for deceiving his readers. But every writer cons her readers to some degree. The fictional Amina, more so. I think we should thank Tom MacMaster for introducing us to the captivating Amina and making us aware of the tragedies occurring every day in Syria. What “she” wrote touched us because we could relate to her emotions and her experience — she was real.
I hope we hear more from Mr. MacMaster.
N.B. Sappho may or may not have been historical; she may or may not have been a Lesbian, but her extant poems are real and still beautiful.