from my bookshelf: the rules do not apply by ariel levy


ariel levy leaves for a reporting trip in mongolia in 2012 pregnant, married, and successful. her life is unrecognizable a mere month later. levy invites you to a painfully honest personal account about how she coped with a complicated love, the loss of a life she forever will feel responsible for, and living up to often the most difficult standard of all: how she always imagined her life should turn out. this book hones in on the particular nuances of womanhood, but an important aspect of her memoir circumvents gender-specific divisions: a display of gritty, dirty, strength and persistence, not only when life is going her way, but more notably, when she lets go for an instant, and her world slips out of her hands before she can ever get it back.


“But as I packed my suitcase at the Cape Heritage, it occurred to me that I should take this chance to see some of Africa’s wildlife. Who knew when–or if–I’d ever e back in this part of the world? I did not, after all, have children. I was free to experience just a little more.”

“Marcus had the power to change my mother from a stern regulator of all food containing sugar into a giggling nymph pouring giant glasses of 7UP, as carefree as if it were carrot juice. It was terrifying to see her so happy.”

“When I graduated from high school, my mother issued a proclamation: The kitchen is closed. She had delivered me healthy to a college with a cafeteria; her work was complete.”

“It was oddly exhilarating–not the prospect of my father dying, but the way things could change, just like that. Had that window faced the street, I could have killed somebody from then on, forever. Life, so plodding and seemingly circumscribed, was labile, fragile.”

“Getting married to a woman seemed like an act of solidarity within a movement that I was not really entitled to be part of. ‘Oh give me a break!’ said Lucy (a real lesbian with impeccable credentials and decades of experience in the field). ‘The whole point is that everybody gets to marry the person they love.'”

“Women of my generation were given the lavish gift of our own agency by feminism–a belief that we could decide for ourselves how we would live, what would become of us. Writers may be particularly susceptible to this outlook, because we are accustomed to the power of authorship. (Even if you write nonfiction, you still control how the story unfolds.)”

“One day you are very young and then suddenly  you are thirty-five and it is Time. You have to reproduce, or else. By that point, many of my friends had already been working on their reproductive ambitions for quite a while.”

“Reason, language, gender–and also loyalty, morality, decency–simply aren’t currency in the carnal world. This world is value-neutral. This world is inside out.”

“When I got to the house, I cleaned the kitchen. I watched an episode of 30 Rock on the computer while I made dinner out of what looked least old on the refrigerator. I went through the mail. Then I went to take the trash out to the shed in the backyard and saw that there was a noose still hanging from the oak tree.”

“I had been so lucky. So little had truly gone wrong for me before that night on the bathroom floor. And I knew, as surely as I now knew that I wanted a child, that this change in fortune was my fault. I had boarded a plane out of vanity and selfishness, and the dark Mongolian sky had punished me. I was still a witch, but my powers were all gone.”

“Grief is a world you walk through skinned, unshelled.”

“As everything else has fallen apart, what has stayed intact is something I always had, the thing that made me a writer: curiosity. Hope.”

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