Reviews

Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School by Kendra James

annamuthalaly's review

Go to review page

4.0

Compulsively readable and a very fresh perspective, James’s memoir tells the story of her time at the NE boarding school Taft, wherein she somehow was the very first Black legacy student to graduate despite it being the year 2006. The memoir attempts to answer the question asked by such a statistic— why do so few Black parents who went to such fancy boarding schools decline to send their children there?

As someone who now goes to a school littered with boarding school kids, admissions would have been a nice read if only to understand what life at fancy school is like. The book is well written, well voiced, and honest in a way I have truly not seen (perhaps because so few people have James’s experience). However, I was slightly wary by the end. James admits many times how she failed to be intersectional while at Taft, and as the child of a member of the board, this book is perhaps the story of what it was to be Black and privileged at Taft. While many of James’s BIPOC friends were on financial aid/scoffed at her privilege, I don’t think that was well explored in the book. Of course, I can’t truly fault her for this, and her perspective of course brings its own valuable insight— ie, how race alone can be a dividing factor even when not offset by socioeconomic class or sexuality or parental support, as it is for her classmates. Personally, though, as a student on financial aid at one of the fancy schools students at Taft are jockeying to go to, I just can’t ignore the gaping adjustment made by legacy status that I feel this book didn’t fully grapple with.

That being said, I still read it all within two days. Very readable, and empathetic in its voice. Would recommend, and am very glad it was written.

ascoular's review

Go to review page

3.0

Having only attended majority white institutions, I was very interested in this book! James fully acknowledged how insufferable she was as an teenager, which mollifies my critique a bit. I have a lot of the same lived experiences so this book was easy for me to relate to. Yet, I’m sorry to say, there were some boring parts! I wish James had reflected more on her experience post-Taft about the program she worked for. I think even though she reflected about her negative experiences in a majority white institution, it still had me googling the cost of tuition at Taft. I hope this gets more buzz!!

angiew23's review

Go to review page

5.0

I LOVED reading this great book that I won in a goodreads giveway! Admissions is about life in an elite boarding school and about uncovering the privilege, marginalization and racism that is inherent in academic institutions.

Kendra James attended Taft as a "legacy" meaning that her father had attended when he was a teen. Even though Taft is technically an integrated school, and was when her father attended as well, the school is really not integrated in the way that one would intend for that word to be used. Throughout her three years there and the time she spent in admissions programs following graduation, Kendra describes how Taft and other elite boarding schools in the Northeast United States were plagued by systemic racism using several personal examples.

Admissions is an excellent mix of YA drama and non-fiction diverse stories to be interesting for a variety of audiences. The blame is placed on the people within a specific institution, but readers can make parallels to their own lives and reflect on their own experiences. It is well written, easy to follow and informative but also interesting. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about microaggressions and the role privilege and racism play in the experiences of BIPOC people. Also if you are interested in boarding school culture this book would be a great read for you.

_basicbookworm's review

Go to review page

3.0

In this memoir, Kendra James shares her experience attending an elite boarding school, being one of the few students of color.

This memoir was part social critique of the very white-centered world of elite prep schools, part comedy with some of the entertaining antics Kendra and her friend for into. Kendra’s experiences were fascinating and even horrifying at times - some of the injustices and micro-aggressions she faced were astonishing. I really enjoyed reading this and thing it would be a great book for everyone to read.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the advanced copy.

tracithomas's review

Go to review page

4.0

I liked this book a good deal. Humor. Candor. Retrospection that wasn’t entirely cliched. Taft (and NE indie boarding schools)sounds exactly like what you’d expect. James brought the world to life. My biggest issue was the book was too long and lost it’s way before the end. Overall very strong and entertaining and easy to read.

meghan111's review

Go to review page

5.0

This is a page-turning, funny, enraging memoir about attending the elite East Coast boarding school Taft as the first African-American legacy student in the mid-2000s. It sounds weird to say this, but my favorite part of this memoir was just what such a great character Kendra James is as a high schooler. She has a memorable sense of style, LiveJournal and fan fiction hobbies, and an obsession with Legolas from LOTR. She's just fun and confident in her interests as a teenager in a way that made reading her story fun to me. It also made me reflect on institutional racism, and I don't mean to minimize that part of the book - it makes a really compelling case for the damage caused by elite white institutions, and how egregiously bad acceptable white behavior is still today and was 15 years ago.

anniehawkinson920's review against another edition

Go to review page

4.0

James’s memoir strikes the perfect balance between reflection and humor. I would be laughing out loud one minute (the scene with the goose egg!), and re-reading a page the next to get a fuller sense of understanding. She calls attention to less overt forms of racism at the school (ie peers assuming she was attending as part of a special program), as well as the more blatant ones (ie a racist editorial in the school newspaper). As she looks back on her time at Taft, she comes to terms with how her boarding school experience was, not how she wished it would be.

Through saved AIM conversations and countless journals from her time as a student, you really get a sense of James’s thought process as a high schooler. Sometimes, though, it felt almost too much like I was reading a teenager’s journal or YA novel, which took away from some of the strength of the memoir for me.

amyjmcmillan's review

Go to review page

I looked up how much this school costs per year and it is $72,000, not including another $2,000 for books. Outrageous. That said, the book is both entertaining and illuminating. I also connected to all of the Buffy and Star Trek references.

lpagana93's review against another edition

Go to review page

funny lighthearted reflective medium-paced

4.5

spaghettireads's review against another edition

Go to review page

funny informative reflective fast-paced

3.75


Expand filter menu Content Warnings