Kendra James (she/her) was a founding editor at Shondaland.com where she wrote and edited work for two years. She has been heard and seen on NPR and podcasts including “Thirst Aid Kit,” “Three Swings,” “Star Trek: The Pod Directive,” “The Canon,” and “Al Jazeera.” Her writing has been published widely from Elle, Marie Claire, Women’s Health Magazine, Lenny, The Verge, Harpers, Catapult, and The Toast, among others.
Admissions gives a sharp-witted and deeply insightful look into the storied world of elite prep schools from the first African-American legacy student to graduate from The Taft School. With its combination of incisive social critique and uproarious depictions of elite nonsense, Admissions will resonate with anyone who has ever dealt with racial microaggressions, or even just suffered from an extreme case of homesickness!
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I think I always knew that I would end up writing about boarding school in some way, whether it was some sort of clinical retelling of a school’s history or writing YA about some fictional boarding school for special children. It became a memoir immediately after my 10 year high school reunion when I was kind of forced to put some real thought into rethinking and finally reframing my whole experience. I realized I had a lot to work through still, and the writing process — as informal as it was at that point — helped.
The soundtracks to the movies Idlewild and The Harder They Fall.
I was a historical fiction nut who loved anything written by Ann Rinaldi– I still have my original copy of Time Enough for Drums. I think I was doing some of my best reading in middle school; books from the Outlander series, Animorphs, The Vampire Diaries, and anything by Ann Rice or romances by Jude Deveraux were also in heavy rotation.
I’m a Capricorn sun, Cancer moon, Capricorn rising, and it is unfortunately quite accurate, yes. I hate group projects and get extremely emotional about it.
One Goth Christmas, a trip to Trash & Vaudeville, and the story of why I had to fake a British accent at a store in the city for over a decade.
by Kendra James
“[C]harming and surprising. . . The work of Admissions is laying down, with wit and care, the burden James assumed at 15, that she — or any Black student, or all Black students — would manage the failures of a racially illiterate community. . . The best depiction of elite whiteness I’ve read.”—New York Times
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Early on in Kendra James’ professional life, she began to feel like she was selling a lie. As an admissions officer specializing in diversity recruitment for independent prep schools, she persuaded students and families to embark on the same perilous journey she herself had made—to attend cutthroat and largely white schools similar to The Taft School, where she had been the first African-American legacy student only a few years earlier. Her new job forced her to reflect on her own elite education experience, and to realize how disillusioned she had become with America’s inequitable system.
In ADMISSIONS, Kendra looks back at the three years she spent at Taft, chronicling clashes with her lily-white roommate, how she had to unlearn the respectability politics she'd been raised with, and the fall-out from a horrifying article in the student newspaper that accused Black and Latinx students of being responsible for segregation of campus. Through these stories, some troubling, others hilarious, she deconstructs the lies and half-truths she herself would later tell as an admissions professional, in addition to the myths about boarding schools perpetuated by popular culture.
With its combination of incisive social critique and uproarious depictions of elite nonsense, ADMISSIONS will resonate with anyone who has ever been The Only One in a room, dealt with racial microaggressions, or even just suffered from an extreme case of homesickness.