When I was in college, I took a course called “American Autobiography.” From Mary Rowlandson to Ben Franklin to Harriet Jacobs to Ernest Hemingway, that class exposed me to what must have been at least a dozen stunning, thought-provoking memoirs. That was one of my earliest experiences examining creative nonfiction, but it helped engrain my love for the genre.
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I adore creative nonfiction for its unmatched ability to provide a backdrop on history. I have always considered memoirists to be journalists, anthropologists, and social commentators. Their accounts are at times some of the most valuable sources of insight into the past — and the present. It is through this lens that I read Sandra Pimentel’s Blind Acceptance, and I must say that Pimentel held her weight against the pack.
Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast (the restored edition, of course) is my favorite autobiography of all time, because each moment that Hemingway provides gives me another snapshot into his life in the mid-twentieth century. These snapshots transported me to Paris and all over the world, following Hemingway and co. wherever their little artistic hearts took them. And Pimentel’s Blind Acceptance shows me life in America during that time.
You see, while Hemingway was in Paris, drinking and gambling his life away, Pimentel’s parents were growing up as immigrants in the United States; “Pamp” was meeting Dorothy and wooing her.
While Hemingway was wasting away his days with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pimentel was gearing up to fight through the trials of an ever-evolving marriage.
And in the time since the end of Hemingway’s discombobulated collection of events, Pimentel has struggled with an ever-changing American culture that routinely cycles through various values and prejudices — from race to gender.
But instead of seeing all of this through the eyes of a Nobel Prize-winning icon, Blind Acceptance takes us through the mid-to-late twentieth century United States through the eyes of the average American, making for what is, arguably, a more valuable account of history and pop culture.
And if a modern memoir can hold its own against Hemingway, that has to be saying something.
Pimentel’s autobiography is real and raw. Her unapologetic honesty is evident. But what sets her apart is her dedication to consistency and values.
Throughout her narrative, she weaves an appreciation for family together with a mindset of perseverance. This thread is unwavering and, frankly, classy.
Her continuous cycle of rises and falls mimics the circle of life, and her modernizing of the past brings history alive for us. And yet still, the book might read to some as a narrative genealogy; a family history, if you will.
All of this imagery, context, and storytelling? In nonfiction?
If you’re reading Blind Acceptance, the answer is yes.
I stand behind my claim; Hemingway’s autobiography will always remain my favorite work of creative nonfiction. But there is something to be said about a narrative that could complement the work of an unchallenged literary genius so well.
Pimentel’s Blind Acceptance gives a story to those who are often silenced and a voice to those who are often forgotten. It speaks to American immigrants, to wives, to mothers, and to social activists spanning three generations.
All in all, its unique, heart-wrenching account of twentieth-century America is worth appreciating and studying. Without the anthropological work of writers like Pimentel, the stories of the non-glamorous would go on unnoticed — which is nothing short of a literary and historical crime.
Reading Blind Acceptance transported me to another era of American history, and if you’re looking to escape to a simpler time, I would absolutely recommend Sandra Pimentel’s autobiography. It’s high time we take it slow and remember the good times — and the bad — that made us who were are today.