Overcoming adversity is a classic plot arc among recent blockbuster coming-of-age memoirs ... Emi Nietfeld enters the genre ambivalently, paying careful attention to what gets elided in stories like hers: the cruelty of a society that makes survival contingent on excellence ... Nietfeld’s story is a detailed critique of the American fantasy that poverty, illness or any other adversity can be conquered through sheer grit and bootstrapping ingenuity; and of how and to whom our society apportions help ... Despite the narrative’s inconsistent pacing — exhaustively detailed at points and conspicuously glossed over at others — Nietfeld’s gifts for capturing the fury of living at the mercy of bad circumstances, for critiquing the hero’s journey even while she tells it, make Acceptance a remarkable memoir.
With conventional framing, Emi Nietfeld's life story could be fodder for a Lifetime movie ... But Nietfeld's memoir Acceptance is not a phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes tale. Instead, Nietfeld refuses silver linings and focuses on the toll of contorting oneself into a 'perfect, deserving' victim who was 'hurt in just the right way.' As such, Acceptance serves as a necessary corrective to what she notes is called 'the gospel of grit' in discussions of hardship in America ... The first three-quarters of the book is dedicated to retracing that upbringing in an unsparing account that asks readers to bear witness without flinching.
With insight and humor, the memoir interrogates the social structures that sometimes supported and frequently ensnared Nietfeld as a young woman. In doing so, she strips the rags-to-riches fairy tale of its façade and incites urgent questions about true consent and agency ... Nietfeld crafts a narrative with all the propulsion of a novel ... Nietfeld characterizes the adults around her with humor and empathy ... She refuses to let her own story be reduced to such a punchline ... Acceptance is a gripping, urgent memoir in an era when social mobility feels beset from all sides. Nietfeld recasts the myth of resilience as a veil for society’s failure to empower vulnerable individuals.