cover image Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men

Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men

Alexandra Robbins. Dutton, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-101-98672-1

In a companion to her book on sororities, Pledged, Robbins follows two boys through a year in their fraternities in this sympathetic portrait of “Greek” life. Though the media often cover the darker aspects of fraternities—hazing, sexual assault, prejudice—Robbins argues that, at their best, fraternities provide companionship, camaraderie, and positive role models. Robbins alternates between following Jake, a “sweet, earnest,” socially awkward kid who pledges a stereotypically masculine fraternity, and Oliver, the “quirky, introverted,” half–Native American sophomore president of a fraternity more focused on camaraderie than partying. The contrast between their respective experiences and the history of Greek-life traditions (such as the secrecy surrounding rituals) form the core of the book. In addition to the young men’s experiences, sections within chapters deal with such topics as the history of fraternities in the U.S., the psychology of belonging, and why members of fraternities are more likely than other college students to abuse alcohol and assault women. Though some of Robbins’s assertions are more speculative than supported (“It’s also possible that fraternity rates of sexual assault are higher than non-Greek rates partly because of access and opportunity”), the narrative sections are skillfully paced. This engaging behind-the-scenes account of fraternities, their traditions, and how they influence (a certain strain of) American men will interest college-bound students, their parents, and readers contemplating American culture. Agent: Gail Ross, Ross Yoon Agency. (Feb.)