Curious about truth behind sorority rumors, former New Yorker staffer Alexandra Robbins decided to spend a year among a typical group of college "sisters." What she experienced exceeded her worst expectations. Women in her adopted sorority indulged in drugs, psychological abuse, extreme promiscuity, racism, violence, and rampant eating disorders. What Robbins found most disturbing, though, was that these cruel abuses were commonplace in a close-knit society dominated by intelligent, successful, and charismatic women.
Better than reality TV -- it's riveting.
Fascinating and eye-opening . . . Pledged is still a powerful warning and an astonishing slice of American life.
Funny but alarming.
A juicy exposé on one (unnamed) university's Greek system . . . You have to read these shocking true stories.
Robbins, who previously researched Yale's Skull and Bones Society for Secrets of the Tomb and also coauthored Quarterlife Crisis, went undercover for the 2002-2003 academic year to investigate the inner workings of "Greek" (National Panhellenic Conference) sororities. Sororities are far from anachronisms; there are presently some 3.5 million women in almost 3,000 Greek chapters on campuses across America. After the national office forbade locals from cooperating with Robbins, she disguised herself as an undergrad and found four sorority women willing to risk expulsion to help her. While Robbins structures her narrative around the year's ritual cycle-the rush, the bid, pledging, initiation, Greek Week, etc.-the timeless soap opera of sorority life occupies center stage. And although battles between girls can be wrenching, there's nothing like a date gone wrong to bring out the tears-and the thermos of vodka. Beyond romance, Robbins's informants have their own issues, among them, being black and poor in a rich white sorority and recovering from date rape by a frat brother. These problems are worsened by an environment that encourages binge drinking, drug abuse, eating disorders and blind obedience to what their pledge masters or sorority elders tell them to do. Historically black sororities, which are not the focus of this book, do have a reputation for promoting community service and sisterhood; "historically white" sororities, Robbins concludes, are really just social groups for making friends and meeting guys, despite their claims to academic and service values. Robbins makes suggestions for reforming sororities-more adult supervision, ending pledging, etc.-although the demystification that comes from reading her front-line account may be the best prescription. Agent, Paula Balzer. (Apr. 14) Forecast: Robbins is mediagenic and has lots of connections (she's written for the New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, USA Today, Self and other publications). A Today appearance will boost sales, although it's hard to pin down this book's audience. Those interested in joining a sorority probably won't pick it up, and it's not particularly addressed toward feminists. Do university policy makers watch the Today show? Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Cosmo contributor, Oprah guest, and Skull and Bones investigator Robbins (Secrets of the Tomb, 2002) offers a titillating take on sisterhood gone mad. The author spent a year undercover consorting with sorority girls and describes several disguised sisters, from their unvarying ironed hair to their standardized strappy sandals. Readers will surely learn to beware these Greeks bearing Prada bags from Robbins's reports on rush week, Greek week, date rush, the Formal, pledging, roommate conflicts, adolescent cruelty, hazing, crushes, grudges, drinking, eating disorders, grotesque body piercing, and much sex (both deliberate and unintended) with the cute fraternity guys, not to mention the candle-passing singing. Her text takes us inside a bizarre place from which those unaccustomed to complex TV soaps or simple pulp romances will seek the nearest exit. A hundred princesses, overcharged with estrogen, are certainly daunting, especially for those to whom the merriment is all Greek. Though the author covers campus pan-Hellenic nuttiness with the thin veneer of a serious study, passages like "Caitlin emerged, wearing a midriff-baring halter top that matched her azure eyes, tight white pants and one of Amy's gold butterfly clips" are too frequent to support her allegedly sober intent. Secret passwords may be revealed and coed fraternities noted as the next big thing, but all is overwhelmed by the monotonous snobbery, inane preoccupations, puerile antics, and jejune rituals. Charming though they may be, it's ultimately dispiriting to make the acquaintance of Vicky, Bitsy, Fiona, Laura-Ann, and the sisters of Beta Pi and Alpha Rho. Robbins's final prescriptions for reform are not likely to be takenseriously. Maybe they aren't meant to be. This lubricious inquiry may infuriate those who value their sorority pins, but for outsiders it's merely a tedious guide to the goings-on in chapter houses. Agent: Paula Balzer/Sarah Lazin Books