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.
Looking back from a vista of professional security, somewhere on the far side of her own ambition, Nietfeld writes to survey the tumultuous psychological landscape of class mobility. In breaking from the Cinderella-story convention of social mobility memoirs, Acceptance achieves exceptional candor and beauty ... In evincing this pity, Acceptance wins for itself independence from the sentimental identification of the professional reader ... Never does a reader suspect that Nietfeld is smuggling, along with a personal narrative, a coming-of-age story for a hazy set of social ideals that are vindicated by her strife. The drama in this narrative is an uphill battle waged on the path to personhood, an individual coming to blows with truths that cannot be squared with the striver plot of her own life. Harvard gave Neitfeld 'a special voice that I used on the phone'; in Acceptance, she learns to speak for herself.
... [a] captivating page-turner ... She expertly describes the determined mindset with which she tackled seemingly unrealistic goals while also battling almost impossible setbacks; readers will find themselves rooting for Nietfeld to reach a successful adulthood ... Her memoir effectively relates the experiences of a child forced to raise herself due to negligent parents and ineffectual social and psychiatric services ... A gripping firsthand account of a teenager navigating homelessness and the foster care system. It should appeal to many and may be of particular interest to school counselors, foster parents, psychologists, social workers, and others who work with children in difficult situations.
The author offers a complex meditation on desperation, leveraging personal pain, and how the drive to achieve can be a gift and a pathology simultaneously ... A powerful memoir of overcoming adversity that also effectively interrogates the concept of meritocracy.
Nietfeld debuts with a heart-pounding look at her path out of homelessness and the flawed systems she had to navigate along the way ... unsparing prose ... It’s a sobering narrative, and Nietfeld’s raw resilience and candor will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. This hits hard.