Cheryl Diamond’s “Nowhere Girl”

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How do you know when the con has stopped?

Nowhere Girl is a memoir that reads like a fast paced thriller.  For the most part, author Cheryl Diamond has a gift for cutting right to the heart of the story, and leaving out all of the superfluous details. 

The key thing about this book is whether it is true or not.  It doesn’t hold up as a work of fiction at all because honestly, it goes far beyond anyone’s reasonable ability to suspend disbelief.  As I read, I found myself feeling kind of awkward because I was thinking, it this isn’t true, I’m wasting my time, but I didn’t want to read too much about it online because then the rest of the book might be ruined!

One of the strangest paradoxes of literature is that fiction has to adhere to a higher standard of believability than nonfiction.  Isn’t that weird?  Or, as they say and as I have certainly thought often in my lifetime: Truth is stranger than fiction.

My service to you is this: I read the book.  I read it in a day and a half, and that’s on top of working full time.  Except for the last few chapters, which run on too much, the story is well paced and laid out in a way that helps the reader experience what Diamond must have felt, especially as a little girl whose surreal lifestyle meant that she grew up not even knowing her closest family members’ real names.

As far as I can tell, her story is legitimate, but the best I could do to substantiate it is a story in the New York Post.  My guess is that the Post is the kind of publication that would debunk the story if they could, so I would hope that they would put more effort into fact checking it than publications that simply write a story off a press release about a book or do a quick interview with the author.  But what do I know, except that the person who did the map doesn’t know how to spell the name of the country “Cyprus”, instead spelling it “Cypress”. The Post also included the only photos of Diamond with her father than I found anywhere else.  I do advise that you don’t read this story until you’ve read the book because it does give quite a bit away.

If you are a fan of the FX TV series The Americans (which I am), you will probably like this book. But instead of working for the greater good, and the spies in The Americans do believe, mostly, in the mission of the Soviet Union, well, it’s not clear exactly what this family is working for.  I’m not sure if Cheryl Diamond has EVER gotten the real story of her family’s background.  Even when the “truth” is finally revealed to her, I had questions.  If I believe her at all, I believe SHE believes it, but how does she/we know that she was just being taken in by another one of her parents’ cons? 

The parts of this story in which the family meanders through corners of India and other parts of Asia in a rattletrap car makes this seem like one more story of hippie nomads when it begins, but the truly astounding part of this story is the success that at least two of the three children attain.  Cheryl Diamond herself competed as a national lever swimmer and gymnast (in different nations, including Canada and the U.S.), got recruited as a model at age 16 and published her first book, with a major publisher, at 21.

All this, and she literally had no legal, legitimate I.D. of any kind, not even a birth certificate.

Apparently when you ignore certain rules of society and well, the law, it leaves a lot of room for other stuff.  Her brother was also an elite swimmer and later a model.

So is this stuff real, is Cheryl Diamond still being conned, or is she in on it?  If you’re up for a ride, read the book and find out.

If you like Nowhere Girl, check out our post on Confident Women, all about women who ran the con.

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