A Child Called ‘It’ Author: Criticisms of Dave Pelzer

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "A Child Called 'It'" by Dave Pelzer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Who is the author of A Child Called “It”? Is there any controversy around A Child Called “It” and its author?

The A Child Called “It” author has faced some controversy and criticism around the book. The issues focus on profiting from abuse and the belief that some of it may be exaggerated.

Read more about A Child Called “It”, the author, and the criticisms.

Criticisms of the A Child Called “It” Author

While this book inspired innumerable child abuse survivors, many others have questioned Pelzer’s motivation and truthfulness. 

First, critics claim the author of A Child Called “It” exploited his experiences for profit. The Guardian wrote that Pelzer’s vivid descriptions of horrific abuse is “pornographic” and turns child abuse into perverse entertainment. The New York Times described Pelzer as being obsessed with his books’ standings on the Times’s bestseller list (this book and the other two in the trilogy were on the nonfiction paperback list for a record-breaking 448 weeks combined). The Times also noted that Pelzer bought books in bulk to sell at his speaking events—and at the time the article was reported, Pelzer was doing events more than 270 days a year. 

Second, critics suspect Pelzer exaggerated details of his abuse. There are three main factors: 

  1. Some of his brothers have flat-out denied that certain events happened. Pelzer’s brother Stephen said that Mother didn’t stab David; rather, David grabbed Mother’s arm while she was cutting food and the knife nicked him. (However, in his book, David’s brother Richard says that he was convinced Mother meant to kill David when she stabbed him.) Additionally, Stephen told the Times that David was a “hyper, spoiled brat” who “had to be the center of attention,” and David’s grandmother—Mother’s mom—said David was “disruptive” and had “ideas of grandeur.”  
  2. Certain details (such as Pelzer’s age when the abuse began) appear inconsistent among the three books. Other details, such as an explanation for Mother’s abusive behavior and the reason social services finally intervened, were omitted entirely. These inconsistencies and omissions raised eyebrows, especially in contrast to Pelzer’s precise memory of certain events and dialogue.
  3. Pelzer inflates certain accomplishments, which calls his credibility into question. For example, he claims to be a Pulitzer nominee, when, in fact, he submitted his work but received no nomination.
A Child Called ‘It’ Author: Criticisms of Dave Pelzer

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Dave Pelzer's "A Child Called 'It'" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full A Child Called 'It' summary:

  • How David Pelzer survived horrific abuse at the hands of his mother
  • How victims and survivors of abuse can find support and overcome their painful past
  • Why child abuse may go unnoticed by other adults

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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