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Emi Nietfeld

Self Portrait as a Human Interest Story

Illustration by Jackson Gibbs

Emi Nietfield | Longreads | December 2019 | 11 minutes (2,834 words)

If you’ve read a newspaper, you know me: I was the high school senior who overcame unbelievable odds to win swell prizes.

They could have shot a made-for-TV-movie: gone dad, hoarder mom, foster care, homelessness, so much adversity the Horatio Alger Association gave me $20,000. I snagged $10,000 more in a writing contest, won $3,000 to visit Europe, and landed a full ride to Harvard (valued at approximately $210,000, plus $1.6 million in expected extra lifetime earnings, and 27 free, corporate-branded water bottles).

They called me “one-in-a-million.” I was proof of the American dream. On May 24th of 2010, when I smiled in my gray cardigan in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press, I carried the torch of an eternal narrative.

Until five weeks later, when I was raped.
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