Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.American Fraternity Manby Nathan Holic• contains 436 pages• published by Beating Windward Press LLCon 27. May 2013• classified as Contemporary, Literary Fiction, New Adult• obtained through NetGalley• read as eBook• shelve on Goodreads
Now that Charles has graduated, it is time to face the real world. He is all fresh-faced and eager, all ready to take on the world. Except, he is not ready to leave his fraternity behind. His alumni network won’t cut it, and so he has decided to work for Nationals. He strongly believes he can change the culture of Greek fraternity life. Though in order to do that, he decides that he has to hold himself to exceedingly superb standards in order to be an exemplary role model. This is where all the fun begins.
Charles Washington, a college grad brimming with energy and idealism and promise, is swept up in the Compassion Boom. At the height of the financial meltdown, he spurns the prescribed job market to take a job with a not-for-profit, sacrificing salary for the selfless mission of his first post-college employer. Charles is out to save the world – the world of fraternities!
Charles is an Educational Consultant with the Nu Kappa Epsilon National Fraternity Headquarters. He’s making no money, but he’s on a noble mission: he will crisscross the country to clean up the corroded culture of fraternity life, driving from college to college, fraternity house to fraternity house, conducting leadership development workshops and serving as a 24/7 role model for his NKE brothers. Charles will whisk away the alcoholism and drug abuse, and put an end to the hazing. He will help transform 21st-century fraternity life into a leadership experience just as enriching as the Boy Scouts.
The only problem: Charles isn’t nearly the clean-cut role model he wants to believe he is, and he’s about to learn that he is ill-prepared for the true demands of leadership. Very quickly, he finds himself caught in a whirlwind of alcohol, parties, hazing, and sex, a series of events and decisions which will test his new values and threaten his entire future.
American Fraternity Man is an intimate portrait of a young man struggling to become the right kind of professional, while coming to terms with the harsh financial and political realities behind the ambitious mission statements and corporate philosophies. Set within a broad panoramic of the national fraternity world, American Fraternity Man offers a humanizing look at the individuals who live and breathe Greek Life, while also giving an unrivaled glimpse at the power, potential, and absurdity of the National Fraternity/Sorority business. Through both text and illustrations, Nathan Holic offers the very human story of one young man’s longing for morality and purpose in a world he simply has not been prepared to understand.
Even though he did come far from his freshman days, he has difficulty shedding his less than stellar past. He worked hard throughout his university days to build up the confident man that he has become. A lot of his growth, he owes to his fraternity. For him, it is only natural that he has taken on a position as an Educational Consultant. This means that he has to travel all over the country to visit various chapters under his fraternity. Throughout this journey he learns a lot more about himself and things he thought he knew but didn’t. It’s a year-long trip of self-discovery as much as it is of work. During this time he meets the most interesting characters and he comes to realize that age has nothing to do with how together one’s life it. He also comes to question what his personal goals are, especially when his goals and Nationals’ goals seem to be very contrary to one another. He genuinely wants to help his brothers but when it comes to money and corporate power, his personal convictions hardly matter.
While I never was part of the Greek system, never was in a sorority, or anything of that sort, I thought Holic painted a pretty clear picture. Both positive and negative aspects were brought out; sometimes humorously, sometimes seriously. No matter which angle various issues were addressed, they were done so in an engaging manner. Although, sometimes I did feel a little removed from the story, perhaps because as a female reader, some parts with overt male interests failed to hold my interest. At the same time, I could see why a guy might relate to some of these parts differently.
Either way, I enjoyed looking into Charles’ mind. He was so sure of himself on the outside yet so utterly lost on the inside. He was so adamant that he should prove himself to the world. He tried to force himself to be someone he thought he needed to be, forgetting who he was. Without the safety net of school/ university, he had to worry for his livelihood because he was paid just enough for sustenance, while trying to keep the rest of his life together. His parents had different ideas about his future, and his girlfriend, Jen, tried to be supportive, so he also started to wonder at what cost he was pursuing his job as a traveling consultant. All these thought and considerations weaved a complex web that trapped Charles and made it difficult for him to climb out.
Another issue was the place of social media in his life, in light of his private and professional selves. I thought that this was a very fitting concern in this day and age. Once again, the way he dealt with Facebook and his clear dependence on it both socially and psychologically posed inherent questions about the ubiquity of social media and what that does to us who are constantly connected through and with it.
Despite the 400 over pages in print that this book entails, it didn’t feel like some heavy tome best used as a brick. Sure, some heavy thoughts did arise out of reading American Fraternity Man but I appreciated these for self-reflection. As a graduating senior at university, a lot of the very pressing issues were raised, so I would definitely recommend this book for university students. At the same time, I think anyone can benefit from reading it for the laughs but also for the heavy inspection of fraternities that shows that no matter how well stereotypes hold up, things aren’t always as shallow as they might seem to be to outsiders.