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Sun, Apr. 23rd, 2006, 09:14 pm
Reading List: Pledged

Read: Pledged, Alexandra Robbins.

And I’m officially three months behind in my reviews! (I really enjoy writing these. I just enjoy reading new books more!)

I picked up Pledged expecting it to be a guilty pleasure. What could a “behind-the-scenes look at sorority life” be except a chronicle of sexual excess, drinking, drugs and other pastimes of the American college girl? I was pleasantly surprised (oh, okay, and a teeny bit disappointed) to find this book a well-written, thoughtful and even-handed discussion of the benefits and difficulties of the Greek system.  Robbins followed four girls for a year, and wrote about their experiences in a series of chapters which link their individual experiences to larger essays about the Greek system. For example, when the girls go through rush season (where new members are recruited - or rejected), Robbins talked about the girls’ personal experiences of rush, but also looked at rush as a larger sociological phenomenon.

The writing was good and the reporting well-done, but what really interested me about the book was the chance to get a glimpse of a life so very, very unlike mine. I spent my college years writing code, playing games, reading books and wearing ratty t-shirts every day; I met the man I love a year in and haven’t been able to look at anyone else since then. For these girls, though, getting dressed is a competitive sport - let alone finding dates, going to parties, drinking and playing at sorority politics. (The ongoing social games were hideously Machiavellian!) It was really hard to put myself in a mindset where I could understand why these girls value the things that they do. But the book makes it clear just how high the stakes can be in Greek life: when good looks and guys are the only currency that matters, the girl who goes without is just as poor as I would have been without my own, very different, college community.

Being a dreamer, a thinker, a maker and a scholar is at the heart of my own identity.  Pledged reminded me just how lucky I am to be comfortable with all those things as a woman, instead of sitting around waiting for Mr. Right to validate my social standing.  Even if you’ve never wondered what you might be like if you cared about matching your shoes to your handbag, though, this book will help you get into the heads of people from a community that you may never have much experience with - at least not if you’re an empowered geek like me.