Kate Doyle and Emi Nietfeld at Harvard Book Store
I Meant It Once:
August 8, 2023
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes author KATE DOYLE to discuss her debut story collection I Meant It Once. She will be joined by author EMI NIETFELD, who is celebrating the paperback release of her memoir Acceptance.
About I Meant It Once
With this sharp and witty debut collection, author Kate Doyle captures precisely that time of life when so many young women are caught in between, pre-occupied by nostalgia for past relationships—with friends, roommates, siblings—while trying to move forward into an uncertain future. In “That Is Shocking,” a college student relates a darkly funny story of romantic humiliation, one that skirts the parallel story of a friend she betrayed. In others, young women long for friends who have moved away, or moved on. In “Cinnamon Baseball Coyote” and other linked stories about siblings Helen, Evan, and Grace, their years of inside jokes and brutal tensions simmer over as the three spend a holiday season in an amusing whirl of rivalry and mutual attachment, and a generational gulf widens between them and their parents. Throughout, in stories both lyrical and haunting, young women search for ways to break free from the expectations of others and find a way to be in the world.
Written with crystalline prose and sly humor, the stories in I Meant It Once build to complete a profoundly recognizable portrait of early adulthood and the ways in which seemingly incidental moments can come to define the stories we tell ourselves. For fans of Elif Batuman, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patricia Lockwood, and Melissa Bank, these stories about being young and adrift in today’s world go down easy and pack a big punch.
Growing up in a house filled with dirty feather boas and fearless mice, Emi Nietfeld dreams of escaping to the Ivy League. Emi’s single mom believes in her, but can’t stop hoarding—catapulting Emi into the underworld of troubled teen treatment, foster care, and homelessness. When her shot arrives to trade sleeping in her car for the hallowed halls of an elite college, Emi must decide: How far will she go to market herself as a perfect “overcomer” when her problems are far from over? And what will it cost to maintain that illusion at Harvard and into adulthood?
From journalist, mental health advocate, and software engineer Emi Nietfeld, this searing coming-of-age story is both a chronicle of the American Dream and an indictment of it. Exposing the price of trading a troubled past for the promise of a bright future, Nietfeld explores whether any amount of success can make trauma worth it. With a ribbon of dark humor, Acceptance challenges our ideas of what it means to overcome—and live on your own terms.
Praise for I Meant It Once
“I Meant it Once signals the arrival of a major talent and voice. These stories are by turns funny, melancholy, wry, and piercing in their insight. More than that, I arrived at the end of each of these stories feeling a little less lonely in a world that seemed a little less dark. Kate Doyle brings a rare confidence to stories about the lonely, the prickly, the aimless, and the out-of-sorts, all told in prose that is lively and beautiful. I loved these stories.” ―Brandon Taylor, author of Filthy Animals
"Kate Doyle's sentences are something to be savored, and the characters in these stories live and breathe and stand up fully from the page. Perceptive, funny, forthright, and often alarmingly relatable, I Meant It Once is a tremendously good debut." ―Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had
"Kate Doyle’s gorgeous, electric fiction upends expectations about how stories are told and what exactly needs telling. Lovers and rivals, siblings and friends navigate the funny, strange, sometimes explosive, sometimes transcendently beautiful terrain of love and ambition. These are wise, intimate, essential stories." ―Mary-Beth Hughes, author of The Ocean House
Praise for Acceptance
“From the blind spots of the foster care system to the ivied walls of Harvard Yard, Acceptance offers an intimate and eye-opening look at the stark reality that belies the myth of meritocracy and the American Dream. In spare prose, Emi Nietfeld shows that, more than elite credentials and material wealth, transcending adversity comes down to the stories we choose to tell. I couldn’t put it down.” —Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country
“Wrenching, page-turning, and alive with dark humor, Acceptance illuminates our society’s obsession with precise forms of vulnerability—racialized, blameless, and impossible for any real child to deliver. Now in the first decade of her adulthood, Emi Nietfeld gives a sharp and ultimately triumphant report on a landscape that few teenagers survive with their voices intact. I read with my heart in my throat.” —Lacy Crawford, author of Notes on a Silencing
“Foster care, psych wards, and antipsychotic medication all fail a heroine who slips through every crack. From the first, we know that Emi Nietfeld eventually finds her way through soul-crushing circumstances. But how? There is rowing, computer code, and the sacraments of Harvard. Then, there’s doing the detective work to confront your demons. Acceptance is an engrossing, affirming story of human resilience, with the pacing of a thriller.” —Sherry Turkle, author of Reclaiming Conversation
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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