Joyce Maynard did not fit in at Yale the first time around.When she arrived on campus as a freshman, in 1971, she was a lonely, aloof eighteen-year-old.
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She has married twice, raised three children, and settled outside of San Francisco.
Since 2015, she has appeared as a guest speaker, either in person or via Skype, in a writing workshop at her alma mater taught by Anne Fadiman, a professor and writer-in-residence.
Last February, she travelled to Yale for a campus visit.
She was hosted by one of Fadiman’s students, a current senior and English major named Allie Primak.
By the end of her first semester, she had applied to relocate to a so-called psychological single, on the far end of campus.
Already an accomplished writer, Maynard picked up freelance assignments in her spare time, including, in the spring of her freshman year, a cover story for the . On the first day of her sophomore year, Maynard left Yale, giving up her scholarship, to live with Salinger, who was thirty-five years her senior, in the wooded seclusion of New Hampshire.“She wanted to go to classes all day, and then in the evenings she wanted to go to plays.”Last spring, nearly five decades after withdrawing from the university, Maynard made the decision to rematriculate at Yale, as a sophomore.She rented out her house in California, left her dog with a handyman, and moved across the country to join the university’s Eli Whitney Students Program, which welcomes “nontraditional” applicants with “exceptional backgrounds and aspirations.” At the age of sixty-five, she has embraced university life in all the ways she didn’t as a teen-ager.A month into the fall semester, Maynard had missed class just once, to watch Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.After Christine Blasey Ford alleged that he had sexually assaulted her at a party in the eighties, Senate Democrats began investigating a new allegation by one of his Yale classmates, Deborah Ramirez.Her current schedule, which includes a libretto-writing workshop and a history seminar titled “Yale and America,” will position her for an interdisciplinary major in the humanities.One student who shares a class with Maynard told me, a bit snidely, that she sometimes seems more vocal in the classroom than the professor himself.For the reading, she had paired rose-printed cowboy boots with a skirt that concealed the scrapes on her knees.(She’d fallen off her bike during her daily commute across campus.) As we drove north, out of New Haven, she reached toward the front seat to adjust the radio, her fingers still smudged with paint from a week of art classes.(Kavanaugh denies both allegations.) At Yale, where I am a senior, protests against Kavanaugh’s looming confirmation consumed the law school.“I’m surprised that some of the undergraduates I talk to aren’t more concerned about this,” Maynard told me that afternoon, when I met her outside her apartment, on the outskirts of campus.