• Acceptance

  • A Memoir
  • By: Emi Nietfeld
  • Narrated by: Julia Knippen
  • Length: 13 hrs and 56 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (97 ratings)

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Acceptance  By  cover art

Acceptance

By: Emi Nietfeld
Narrated by: Julia Knippen
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Publisher's Summary

“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.” —The New York Times Book Review

A luminous, generation-defining memoir of foster care and homelessness, Harvard and Big Tech, examining society’s fixation with resilience—and its cost

As a homeless teenager writing college essays in her rusty Toyota Corolla, Emi Nietfeld was convinced that the Ivy League was the only escape from her dysfunctional childhood. But upward mobility required crafting the perfect resilience narrative. She had to prove that she was an “overcomer,” made stronger by all that she had endured.

The truth was more complicated. Emi’s mom was a charming hoarder who had her put on antipsychotics but believed in her daughter’s brilliance—unlike the Minnesotan foster family who banned her “pornographic” art history flash cards (of Michelangelo’s David). Emi’s other parent vanished shortly after coming out as trans, a situation few understood in the mid-2000s. Her own past was filled with secrets: mental health struggles, Adderall addiction, and the unbecoming desperation of a teenager fending for herself. And though Emi would go on to graduate from Harvard and become a software engineer at Google, she found that success didn’t necessarily mean safety.

Both a chronicle of the American Dream and an indictment of it, this searing debut exposes the price of trading a troubled past for the promise of a bright future. Told with a ribbon of dark humor, Acceptance challenges our ideas of what it means to overcome—and find contentment on your own terms.

©2022 Emi Nietfeld (P)2022 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Heart-pounding. . . . Nietfeld’s raw resilience and candor will keep readers enthralled until the very last page. This hits hard.” Publishers Weekly

“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.” Kirkus (starred review) 

“[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. . . . 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.” Library Journal 

What listeners say about Acceptance

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Wow

Your epilogue is powerful. It should be a chapter. Your story covers a wide array of experiences. I hope to meet you someday to discuss.

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What an incredible journey. I am speechless.

Loved it. Couldn't stop listening. Emi is a wonderful storyteller and I learned so much!

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so many familiar thoughts in here

the feeling of not being loved or held as a child, developing into the lack of self worth and immediate self blame for incidents even those out of my control are familiar. the drive to succeed sand out pace everyone around is not. mine feelings of not bringing and self doubt had me stuck unable to decide on best path forward while Emi felt that but kept moving forward actually asked those sensations to propel her forward, that's the biggest difference. acceptance is a big deal, self acceptance is a life long struggle.

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Incredibly relatable to what I suspect are many of us

Many themes I found to be woot on with my own, damaged childhood as well as parental figures and episodes. The best part is the epilogue: her final realizations struck a cord with me through my own attempts at healing. Highly recommend to devour this memoir.

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Deeply impactful book

I found this book completely by chance while surfing the internet and I’m so glad I did. Emi’s story is so real and her honesty is refreshing, despite being hard to hear at times. Her analysis of societal expectations and norms and the way they worked both for and against her was fascinating to think about. She touches on politically charged topics like white privilege without being offensive or accusatory toward any viewpoint on the subject matter. She is matter-of-fact, and I think that makes her story relatable for people from all kinds of different backgrounds and belief systems. A valuable insight into the systems that fail young people in America and how even the ones that succeed in some ways, still aren’t perfect. Emi’s story is one of succeeding and failing at the same time, living in the middle of a messy life. It’s unlike anything I’ve read. Highly recommend giving it a read or a listen. The narrator for the audiobook has a pleasant voice, although she mispronounced a couple of words. Nothing major though. All around an excellent book that kept me interested from start to finish!

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A heartbreaking insight to a teen’s view of life in the system

This looked like a ‘must read’ after I read an essay by Nietfeld. I listened to parts of this book while remodeling a former group foster home, already angry at the poor condition of a house that was supposed to provide safety and comfort to youth in the system. This book is heartbreaking and insightful. It helps give a better understanding to the roadblocks encountered, and emotions felt, by teens as they try to navigate the complicated bureaucracies designed to provide help. Far too many youth are traumatized in some way by these systems and Nietfeld’s narrative walks readers through the various ways and places this can happen. While the outcome of her professional life looks great on paper, this book helps us understand the nuances of pain and trauma underneath. I fear there are too many similar stories, of youth who love their parents but cannot live with them and cannot get all the assistance needed to support them to adulthood. I appreciated this bold story and the effort I imagine it took to tell it to the whole world.