Greenwich Library Will Host Two AuthorsLive Events in September,
Featuring Discussions with Authors Kendra James and Arlene Mark
Greenwich Library is excited to welcome authors Kendra James and Arlene Mark to its AuthorsLive series. For the first event, James will read from and discuss her memoir, Admissions: A Memoir of Surviving Boarding School, at Greenwich Library’s Marx Family Black Box Theater on Wednesday, September 14, at 7:00 p.m. Two weeks later, Mark will join Leigh Grant in conversation about her new teen novel, The Year Without a Summer, also at the Library’s Marx Family Black Box Theater on Wednesday, September 28, at 7:00 p.m.
Kendra James is an executive producer for entertainment and culture podcasts with Crooked Media. Previously, she was a founding editor at Shondaland.com, and 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, LennyLetter, The Verge, Harper’s Bazaar, Catapult, and The Toast, among others.
Straight out of college, though, James began her career as an admissions counselor specializing in diversity recruitment for prep schools. She writes that it felt like she “sold a lie for a living” every time she talked up the school-approved talking points to Black, Latinx, and Asian families without discussing her own experience at an elite boarding school, where she was the first-ever legacy Black American student.
James’ memoir, Admissions, is an accessible, funny story that sheds light on boarding schools and their challenges with race and equity. In it, James looks back at the three years she spent at Taft, a preparatory school in Watertown, Connecticut, from clashes with her white roommate to unlearning the respectability politics she’d been raised with, to a horrifying article in the student newspaper that accused Black and Latinx students of being responsible for the segregation of campus.
“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 New York Times said it its review. “After graduation, James finds that white classmates suddenly embrace her, ‘as though it was normal, something we’d always just done. Suddenly, outside Taft’s gates, I was a person.’”
Its writer, Lacy Crawford, added, “This phenomenon is about the best depiction of elite whiteness I’ve read, nailing the belonging derived from institutional affiliation, which is therefore impersonal and false, but manifests value in spite of this.”
As for James, she says that despite worries she had while writing that the book would elicit anger or a backlash, she’s been encouraged by its reception. “I was terrified throughout the process, and spent so much time while I was writing going through the many “what ifs” that could occur after publication,” she told Powell’s. “Powerful people and institutions handle getting called out (whether gently or not) in a multitude of ways and it was impossible for me to even begin to predict what folks’ reactions would be to my book and my story. I’ve been incredibly lucky and the dialogues that have begun since Admissions’ publication have been more than heartening.”
Local Greenwich author Arlene Mark’s latest middle-reader novel covers a couple of things teens are especially concerned about: romance and climate change. In The Year Without a Summer, two eighth graders learn to navigate a world where a natural disaster causes them to meet, but personal hardships truly bring them together.
“Mark’s novel will appeal to both a middle-grade and YA audience, as it discusses its heavy topics with finesse and warmth,” Kirkus reviews. “It’s a compelling blend of a teenage romance and a tale of attempting to make a difference in the world at large. As such, the work effectively focuses on change in one’s one life as well as change in one’s community.”
Mark is a certified school psychologist and a longtime special education teacher in New York and Connecticut schools. She received her B.A. in Music from Manhattanville College and a Master’s in School Psychology from the College of New Rochelle. Her writing has appeared in the children’s magazines Highlights and Spider, and in academic journals. Her picture book To the Tower: A Greenwich Adventure was published in 2002.
Leigh Grant, president of the Greenwich branch of the National League of American Pen Women, will moderate the Library’s discussion with Mark. Grant, a Greenwich native, earned her B.A. in Art History from Hollins College and began her career as an illustrator of children’s books. She has since launched her own business as an art appraiser specializing in fine and decorative arts. Her debut historical novel is awaiting publication.
AuthorsLive at Greenwich Library is made possible through the support of the Greenwich Library Board of Trustees and contributions from generous donors. These events are open to all at no charge.
Registration using the Library’s online calendar is required for both the Kendra James event and the Arlene Mark event.