Forbidden Love (novel)
Forbidden Love (called Honour Lost in the United States) is a 2003 book written by Norma Khouri, purporting to tell a true story about her best friend in Jordan. The story describes her friend Dalia's love for a Christian soldier, kept secret from her Muslim father due to conflict in religion. Her father eventually finds out and stabs Dalia to death in a so-called honor killing. A year after publication, it was discovered that Khouri had fabricated the tale and that the story was fictional.
The novel centers on the life of Dalia, a young Muslim woman living in Amman, Jordan. When she falls in love with Michael, a young Catholic major in the British Army, she is forced to keep the relationship a secret and rely on her friend Norma to act as an intermediary. Although the lovers are only able to be alone together on a handful of occasions and Dalia's virginity remains intact, her father is so enraged when he hears of the affair from her older brother that he kills her two months after her twenty-sixth birthday. Khouri claimed that as a result, she had been forced to seek asylum in Queensland, Australia.
Questions about Khouri's story surfaced almost immediately. Several readers wrote on message boards that much of the book didn't ring true. For instance, the book contained numerous factual errors (it claimed that Jordan borders Kuwait, contained "fanciful" depictions of Amman, and made false statements about Jordanian law). She also aroused suspicions because she spoke perfect American English, even though she claimed to have never lived in the United States. Additionally, she had promised to donate most of the proceeds to the Jordanian National Association for Women, but only sent $100. The group was suspicious of her claims from the start, contending that it would have known about such a crime given Jordan's size. After conducting an investigation, it wrote Random House Australia in September 2003 detailing 73 specific errors and exaggerations. However, Random House stood by Khouri.
In July 2004—a year after the book's release--Sydney Morning Herald literary editor Malcolm Knox wrote a series of articles which exposed Khouri as a complete fraud. Knox wrote that based on an 18-month investigation, Khouri had fabricated the story and sold it untruthfully as a memoir. In truth, Khouri had not lived in Jordan since 1973, but had lived in Chicago for most of her life and was married with two children. Khouri's family had not heard from her since 2000, when she abruptly left Chicago to write the book. Khouri continued to insist she'd told the truth, even when confronted with public records which proved beyond all doubt she had spent most of her life in the United States. Knox also unearthed evidence that suggested Khouri had left Chicago when legal problems arose with several real-estate transactions.
As a result, Random House pulled the book off the shelves in Australia and England indefinitely. Knox, with fellow Australian journalist Caroline Overington, won a Walkley Award (2004) for investigative journalism for his exposé.
In September 2007, a documentary entitled Forbidden Lie$ was released. Director Anna Broinowski tells the story of how Khouri's book became a best-seller, and then follows Khouri to Jordan. Since Khouri still insists that the story is true, Broinowski gives her the opportunity to prove that it is fully or at least partly truthful; however, the evidence Broinowski uncovers indicates not only that Khouri's book is fiction but that Khouri had committed a number of scams even before the book.
- Knox, Malcolm (24 July 2004). "Bestseller's lies exposed". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 June 2011.
- Knox, Malcolm (2004-07-24). "The lies stripped bare". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
- Knox, Malcolm (27 July 2004). "We were inseparable, says hoaxer's Chicago flatmate". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 June 2011.