Of Note: American Currency
Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James
Grand Central Publishing, January 18, 2022
Following in the footsteps of Lorene Cary's memoir Black Ice, Kendra James' Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School recounts her three years as the first Black American legacy student to graduate from Taft in the early 2000s. In both hilarious and sobering vignettes, James explores themes of belonging and segregation from the perspective of a teenage millennial raised on respectability politics navigating issues at the intersection of race, class, and privilege. She describes the daily microaggressions and the outright racism she experienced as a student at this elite institution, all in exchange for the American Dream of connections and upward mobility. Looking back on her high school experience after several years of working as an admissions counselor at similar independent schools, James reflects that "like many Black people, the life I dreamed of was paid for with the American currency of a minor trauma." Until independent schools truly listen to all BIPOC voices and engage in sustained antiracism work, James concludes, these spaces will continue to perpetuate harm toward BIPOC students. As independent schools continue to grapple with their legacy of white supremacy, and as educators work to create truly inclusive communities where all students feel a sense of belonging, James' memoir is a must-read.