“Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men” by Alexandra Robbins— From the Brothers

Robbins, Alexandra. “Fraternity: An Inside Look at a Year of College Boys Becoming Men”, Dutton Books, 2019.

From the Brothers

Amos Lassen

Alexandra Robbins gives us a look inside fraternity houses from current brothers’ perspectives thus also giving us an idea of what it is like to be a college guy today. We have here two life stories. Jake is a studious freshman looking at how far to go to find a brotherhood that will introduce him to lifelong friends and help conquer his social awkwardness; and Oliver is a hardworking chapter president trying to keep his misunderstood fraternity out of trouble despite many run-ins with the police. We are with them for a year and it is through them that we begin to understand
why students join fraternities in record numbers despite scandalous headlines. In an effort to find out what it’s like to be a fraternity brother in the twenty-first century, writer Alexandra Robbins contacted hundreds of brothers whose chapters don’t make headlines—and who suggested that a fraternity can be a healthy safe space for men.

This is not just about fraternity life, it is also about the transition from boyhood to manhood. The text brings psychology, current events, neuroscience, and interviews together in order to explore the state of masculinity today, and what that means for students and their parents. College boys candidly discuss sex, friendship, social media, drinking, peer pressure, gender roles, and even porn.  For many boys or men, if you prefer, the college experience is when they are at a vulnerable age and are living on their own for perhaps the first time. We live in a time when one can be  stigmatized for being male and realizing how to  navigate the complicated, coming-of-age journey to manhood alone.

Robbins shows us that fraternities are not monolithic and that they can be healthy, safe spaces.” It is important to note that in most cases, fraternity life depends on the school on whose campus the fraternity is located. I was a brother and often traveled to other schools and was amazed at the differences at each site.

We go behind the scenes of fraternity life and read about traditions and how they influence those who join fraternities yet keeping in mind that this influence extends to parents and often to the larger American culture. We become aware of
the changing roles and pressures that today’s millennial males face. She shares profiles of men “navigating the processes and pressures of rushing, pledging, and troubleshooting the hypermasculine fraternity culture and the rigid guidelines of collegiate social engagement.”  Here are real-life perspectives “on the immersive, unifying, and chancy culture of fraternities.”

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