Rachel Louise Snyder lost her Jewish mother at 8 and was kicked out of her evangelical father's home at 16 after years of physical abuse. What she did with her life's story is instructive.
I absolutely adored your Red Book post (full disclosure-- I am an alum of Deborah's, different class though)-- and I liked it so much I sent it to a scrum of my friends who also went to Harvard. Here is my take on this--sometimes when the truth hits too close to home--people get wildly defensive. Especially people getting defensive because they went to a fancy school and stayed home to be a mom and the Patriarchy is like--"hey, you took a slot away from a MAN who would have done a REAL job". And also I read the the updates from women who list all the things their kids are doing. And these detailed kid updates are almost all done by women alums. Although a male alum may mention if his kid got into harvard or is killing it on the athletic field. And while being an alum and giving a ton of $ to Harvard doesn't guarantee your kid will get in-- it ain't hurtin'. Pretending like it doesn't make a difference is not authentic. At all. So before you beat yourself up too much for this, may be consider you (accurately) hit a nerve. It's like telling a straight white tall good looking WASP man that he didn't hit a triple because he was born on third base (old school way of saying "privilege" ). Woo doggie they will fuss. I think that's part of what happened here. Your writing about vulnerability was quite clear. Some people are not ready to hear it.
I saved your Red Book essay because it struck me very clearly and powerfully. It burrowed into the deeper, composting regions of my mind while the upper levels of cognition were taking care of my daily business--work, shopping for and feeding kids, personal life, housekeeping--stumbling, failing, sometimes winning. For me, its salient message was that summaries of lives so often leave out the necessary redemptive passages about failure--whether those blanks are in service to appearing more powerful and in control than is true, or in service to trying to value the positive and focus on gratitude. The effect is the same: an unreal, frictionless success, which I refuse to believe is actually real. So--I am really sorry you deleted it bc it articulated something SO respectfully in the brief space it took up, and I devoured it with flash after flash of recognition.
I can't help feeling that it was a mistake to delete your essay, particularly in this time of mob-imposed political correctness. Your explanation of your original intention was quite clear, so why not let the reader judge for himself or herself? On the other hand, I couldn't help thinking about Voltaire's plight in France, having spent several years living in Ferney-Voltaire, the site of his chateau. The French might love revolutionaries, but only after they've been dead for a hundred years or so. In Voltaire's case, when he died, his body had to be buried in secret lest the enraged victims of his acid wit wreak revenge on his remains. It's not easy being a writer, and even more difficult if one actually has something to say, as you certainly do.
Beautiful piece, Deb, and such a mindful response to your own feelings of miscommunication. ❤️
As I prepare to head back east from my 40th HS reunion, I read your deleted post with the interest… And actually shared it, and a number of my friends commented and we were all sad when it was deleted— but I was not surprised that it caused a bit of controversy… I thought what you wrote was brave, honest, heartfelt and also quite an intense diatribe, so it doesn’t shock me that people reacted… I too think you should not have deleted it, but I understand why you did —that must’ve felt really awful… and for what it’s worth I kind of hate the reunion update thing.
Just finished the book, which was powerful and heartbreaking. Had the privilege of meeting Rachel in person during her first book tour stop in D.C. Her reading was moving, and she was exceptionally warm and funny during her presentation. Since reading “No Visible Bruises”, I’ve become a big fan.
Defining fragility is a constant task that we many times have to do alone. The beauty of it is learning and growing, especially in retirement when there is more time to listen to and watch the hummingbirds and put my face into the mulch as soon as spring arrives. Rachel defines herself in this book, standing tall and smiling at the world.
I just read an article in the Washington Post about a Kansas City doctor (who died at age 109) and one message of many that he left behind as a reason for his longevity was to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Apro po your recent writing experience.
I too enjoyed reading your Red Book post but feared the backlash you received. I attended an elite non-Ivy university and will be skipping my own 35 reunion this year because I’m too busy, but I identified similar issues with my classmates and feel that your questions and comments are very pertinent. I have also observed an even higher sense of elitism in the alumni communications I read from my husband’s Ivy League alma mater, and I sometimes cringe and even seethe at what I read. We do need to ask ourselves the questions you raise at this point in our lives, and we especially need to recognize our responsibility to give back to the less fortunate if we’ve had success in our lives.
I can’t imagine how vitriolic some of the comments you read were, but I can’t ignore my gut sense that if you were a man and wrote that essay, the responses wouldn’t have been as harsh.
I loved the Red Book post and thought it captured an obvious truth about the socioeconomic gaps in this country. It's disappointing - and possibly telling - that people were offended by it. Methinks they doth protest too much? You have nothing to apologize for, we need more honesty and self-reflection from everyone - maybe especially the elite. That book looks fascinating, it's on the teetering TBR pile now.
Here's something that may interest you. If there's a better way to email you to send stuff on women's health that I run across, please let me know. Thanks, David
Second comment here. When I read the essay on the Red Book, I kept thinking about those Christmas letters people write…
I thought your essay on the Red Book was interesting and thoughtful. Sorry it met with so much backlash.