cover image Acceptance: A Memoir

Acceptance: A Memoir

Emi Nietfeld. Penguin Press, $27 (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-48947-5

Nietfeld debuts with a heart-pounding look at her path out of homelessness and the flawed systems she had to navigate along the way. Raised in Minneapolis in the early 2000s by a single mother, Nietfeld’s home was “filled to the top with garbage, and... covered with mouse and dog excrements.” Despite the glaring signs of abuse, Nietfeld’s mother convinced therapists her daughter was mentally unwell. “No one would listen to me. No one would trust me,” Nietfeld writes, describing in unsparing prose the revolving door of mental institutions she spun through before being put into foster care in her teens. Though her foster parents belittled her academic pursuits, she excelled in her studies and secured a scholarship to boarding school, where she spent school breaks alternating between prestigious academic camps and living in her car. After being accepted to Harvard, Nietfeld was sure her life would change, but as she reckoned with the school’s elitist culture and, later, the disillusionment that came from working in Silicon Valley, she realized the trauma “ingrained into my nervous system” couldn’t be eradicated by the fleeting thrills and rewards of finding “status” in America. It’s a sobering narrative, and Nietfeld’s raw resilience and candor will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. This hits hard. (Aug.)