Margaux Fragoso, Memoirist Who Wrote Hauntingly of Sexual Abuse, Dies at 38

Margaux Fragoso never painted herself as an entirely innocent lamb. Nor did she suggest that the man she called Peter Curran, the 51-year-old pedophile who began abusing her when she was 7 and who maintained their relationship for 15 years, was an irredeemably ferocious tiger. Her book raised more questions than it answered.

Reviews ranged from livid indictments of what was dismissed as exploitive pornography to ringing endorsements of Ms. Fragoso’s bravery as a catharsis for herself, and a cautionary tale for children and their parents. Ms. Fragoso died on Friday in Mandeville, La., at 38. Her husband, Tom O’Connor, said the cause was ovarian cancer.

Her memoir was eight years in the making as she had previously published several poems and short stories, and when it was released in 2011 it was nothing if not controversial. The book is set in Union City, N.J., where Ms. Fragoso lived in a one-bedroom apartment with her mentally ill mother, a former teacher at a day care center, and her abusive, alcoholic father, a jeweler.

She wrote that she introduced herself to Peter at a public pool, embraced him as a Peter Pan-like man-child and visited his home regularly, often chaperoned by her mother. They played games, including one called Tiger. She graphically recalled their sexual encounters, so graphically and in such conversational detail that some reviewers questioned the memoir’s veracity and suggested that she should have written a fictionalized narrative instead. She said she had kept childhood journals, and jogged her memory by other means.

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