GW alumnus Colin Cohen said he thought GW’s campus was the perfect setting for his first novel, House of Kidz, an exploration of fraternity life.
Cohen, a former Sigma Nu member, said his book is a satirical look at Greek-letter life during the 1980s, but he said he hopes people notice serious themes underlying his words.
In particular, Cohen said he wants readers to understand the changes the main character, Jake Stein, undergoes after arriving at GW.
“The characters change tremendously from the beginning of the book to the end, much like real people after four years in college,” he said.
Cohen said Tau Mu, the fictitious fraternity Stein joins, is loosely based on his experiences in Sigma Nu. He said the situations and characters were exaggerated even though they are set in real-life places such as Thurston Hall, the Smith Center and Odd’s nightclub.
Some of Cohen’s Sigma Nu brothers were upset he wrote the novel, Cohen said.
“Some of them see themselves in it, and I don’t think the portrayal is very flattering,” he said.
Current GW Sigma Nu members said the book does not reflect their chapter.
“Although it was interesting to read and some parts were somewhat recognizable, our chapter is very different from the chapter in the book,” Sigma Nu President Michael Dillon said.
Cohen said House of Kidz presents readers with a positive message about fraternity life because the characters “gain more than they lose by joining the fraternity.” At the same time, Cohen said he realizes some readers might not understand his purpose.
“The book might reinforce some of the fraternity stereotypes,” he said. “But, on average, (Tau Mu) is what fraternities really are.”
Cohen began to write the novel when he was living in Prague, Czech Republic, where he has a small software company. He said he was prompted to write because he felt homesick.
“(Writing) was therapy,” he said. “It was funny and I could remember the good times.”
The novel will interest many people, not just those in the Greek-letter community, Cohen said.
“People are interested in what’s going on because much of (fraternity life) is shrouded in secrecy.”
Cohen said readers should not overanalyze his writing.
“It’s a good, fun read,” he said. “Don’t take it seriously. There’s no hot and heavy message.”
This article appeared in the October 22, 1998 issue of the Hatchet.