Beatrice Sparks

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Beatrice Sparks (January 15, 1917 – May 25, 2012) was an American therapist and Mormon youth counselor who was known for producing books purporting to be the 'real diaries' of troubled teenagers. The books deal with topical issues such as drug abuse, Satanism, teenage pregnancy or AIDS, and are presented as cautionary tales. Although Sparks always presents herself as merely the discoverer and editor of the diaries, records at the U.S. Copyright Office show that in fact she is listed as the sole author for all but two of them.

Biography[edit]

Beatrice Ruby Mathews Sparks was a native of Goldburg, Custer County, Idaho. She began working with teenagers in 1955, after attending the University of California at Los Angeles and Brigham Young University. She has worked as a music therapist at Utah State Mental Hospital and taught continuing education courses at BYU.

Critics have called the precise extent of Sparks' qualifications and experience into question. The editorial credit on some of the diaries published by Sparks identifies her as "Dr Beatrice Sparks, PhD". However, when journalist Aileen Pace Nilsen interviewed Sparks for School Library Journal in 1979, she was unable to find any confirmation of where or when Sparks earned her doctorate. Nilsen also wrote that Sparks was "vague about specifics" when asked about her counselling qualifications and professional experience.[1]

Sparks claimed her experiences working with troubled adolescents made her want to produce cautionary tales that would keep other teens from falling into the same traps. Her first work, Go Ask Alice, was published under the byline 'Anonymous' in 1971. In interviews conducted over the next few years, Sparks identified herself as the book's editor. In her interview with Nilsen, Sparks said Alice consisted partly of the actual diary of one of her patients, and partly of fictional events based on her experiences working with other teens. [2]

In 1973, Marcella Barrett, a Pleasant Grove, Utah woman whose son Alden had committed suicide at the age of 16, read a newspaper interview with Sparks and became convinced that she was the right person to bring Alden's diary to the public. The result was Jay's Journal, which tells the story of a teenage boy drawn into Satanism. Barrett's family were horrified by the book. They insisted that Alden had never been involved with the occult and that Sparks had used only 21 entries from his journal (out of 212 supposed entries that appeared in the finished book). Sparks has stood by the book, claiming that she got the extra material from letters and interviews with Alden's friends.[3] (See Jay's Journal for a fuller discussion.)

After Jay's Journal, Sparks produced many more 'real diaries,' including It Happened to Nancy: By an Anonymous Teenager (dealing with AIDS), Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets (gang violence), Annie's baby: the diary of Anonymous, a pregnant teenager, Treacherous love: the diary of an anonymous teenager (pupil seduced by teacher), Kim: empty inside: the diary of an anonymous teenager (eating disorders) and Finding Katie: The Diary of Anonymous, A Teenager in Foster Care.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

Sparks died in Provo, Utah on May 25, 2012, aged 95.[4]

Bibliography[edit]

Diaries[edit]

All these books were actually published with the byline 'Anonymous'. Some of them credit Sparks as editor; others (such as Go Ask Alice) do not mention her at all. Almost Lost and Kim: Empty Inside are the only books for which Sparks does not claim copyright as author of the entire work. For both these books, Sparks lays claim only to the editing, compilation and some (unspecified) additional material. The U.S. Copyright Office record for Kim adds the note that some material is taken from a preexisting diary.

Other works[edit]

  • Voices: The Stories of Four Troubled Teenagers as Told in Personal Interviews to Beatrice Sparks (1978)
  • The Kalamity Kids (scripts) (1991)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nilsen, Aileen Pace. "The House that Alice Built: An Interview With the Author That Brought You 'Go Ask Alice'" School Library Journal (October 1979): pp. 109-112. Quoted in "Curiouser and Curiouser": Fact, Fiction, and the Anonymous Author of Go Ask Alice, essay on Go Ask Alice at shutitdown.net.
  2. ^ Nilsen, Aileen Pace. "The House that Alice Built: An Interview With the Author That Brought You 'Go Ask Alice'" School Library Journal (October 1979): pp. 109-112. Quoted in "Curiouser and Curiouser": Fact, Fiction, and the Anonymous Author of Go Ask Alice, essay on Go Ask Alice at shutitdown.net.
  3. ^ Ben Dieterle, 'Teen Death Diary', Salt Lake City Weekly, June 3, 2004.
  4. ^ Daily Herald. "Beatrice Sparks: Utah News from the Daily Herald Newspaper". Heraldextra.com. Retrieved 2012-05-31. 

External links[edit]