Palmer was fourteen years old in September 1958 when he made the unlikely journey alone by train to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. It is impossible to read this boy's story―'ninth child of ten, and the sixth of seven sons'―without feeling the loneliness of that first passage away from home―a black boy crossing into a bastion of white privilege―and the scale of the transformation that awaited him.―Carrie Brown, author of The Stargazer's Sister
In 1958, fourteen-year-old Larry Palmer left his parents and nine siblings at home in St. Louis and boarded a train to attend Phillips Exeter Academy (then an all boys' school) on full scholarship. In Scholarship Boy Palmer reflects on his experiences as a young black boy growing up far from home, learning to fit into a white world without becoming estranged from his closely-knit family.
Palmer delves back into the early years of his childhood, and at times all the way to his family's past in rural Arkansas before he was born, and brings the reader up to his undergraduate years at Harvard and his father's death while he attended Yale Law School in the 1960s. The ninth of ten children, he writes about the delicate, complex balances within the family and illustrates the ways his sibling relationships shaped him as he was also being molded by his elite education. Palmer's journey from being the "next-to-the-baby" of his family into adulthood reveals the personal and often hidden costs of cultural migration.