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Memoirist Ariel Levy Deftly Deflects Criticism

Penelope Green’s New York Times profile of “The Rules Do Not Apply” author Ariel Levy. It’s a fascinating profile all around, but the most interesting part may be where Levy addresses criticism she’d gotten for… well, for writing a feminist (and miscarriage, and divorce) memoir guilty, in (also white) reviewer Charlotte Shane’s view, of “‘white feminism,’” with its focus on “‘having it all.’”

As Green explains, “This line of argument amused more than rankled Ms. Levy.” She goes on:

“If one of my students at Wesleyan tried to take down a writer,” she said, “I’d say, ‘white and from Larchmont’ is a good start but you need more of a case.”

She added: “I think it would be difficult to argue that I’m a net-negative for womenkind. I’ve tried pretty hard to bring in unusual female voices and perspectives. Not just young women and not just white women, either. I don’t know that I’m the best target for improvement. I don’t know that I’m the problem.”

Seems fair. If one of your goals as a critic is (as it should be) to promote diverse voices, this is better accomplished by reviewing underrepresented authors than by faulting authors from well-represented groups for being, in their autobiographical writing, insufficiently representative. This is especially so when the autobiographical writing in question deals with personal tragedy.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at bovy@forward.com. She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation

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