A beautiful book. It has gravity and grace; it’s as inexorable as a fable; it drills down into the things that make a life; it works to make sense of existence on both its coded and transparent levels; it feels like an instant classic of the genre ... Her memoir is intellectually ambitious. She evokes the hothouse atmosphere at Radcliffe and Harvard in the late 1960s, when she was an undergraduate. She sketches fine, small profiles of the professors who influenced her ... The reason the reader cares about these intellectual adventures is that Turkle has already established a warm, intimate voice. We hear in her always the sensitive, curious, slightly baffled girl she was ... Turkle’s food writing, invested with emotion, is as fine ... The Empathy Diaries, I am devastated to report, slides to an uncertain and unpersuasive ending. Turkle attempts to bring the reader up to date with her life, but in a manner that seems evasive. She does not offer what one might call artistic resolution ... After so many felicities, an opacity. Come for this reverberant play anyway.
Academically ambitious yet constrained by economics and thwarted by the sexism directed toward women scholars in the 1960s, Turkle nonetheless charted her own course, but always with an eye toward how her objectives would be interpreted by her family, received by colleagues, and supported by mentors. Turkle’s candor and transparency are totally in keeping with her personal and professional commitment to understanding human emotional motivation and our capacity for empathy, not only towards others but also towards ourselves.
We are, [Turkle] fears, in danger of producing an emotionally sterile society more akin to that of the robots coming down the road. Now Turkle has written a memoir, forthrightly called The Empathy Diaries,in which she seeks to tell the story of her own formative years and how she became the distinguished social theorist that she is today ... The strong suit of “The Empathy Diaries” is the wonderful clarity with which Turkle guides us through her intellectual development ... In a memoir written by a person of accomplishment, the interwoven account of childhood and early influences is valuable only insofar as it sheds light on the evolution of the individual into the author of the memoir we are reading. For me, the ongoing story of Turkle’s family life seemed to hit a single note — one of sympathy and gratitude, to be sure, but one that did not necessarily deepen the main narrative. However, with Turkle’s story of her marriage to Seymour Papert her personal adventures struck gold.