In his first novel, House of Kidz (CC 600 Inc.), Colin Cohen unintentionally proves negative stereotypes haunt GW fraternities for a reason.
The fictitious work depicts Jake Stein’s four years as a student at GW. It highlights Stein’s moments in a fraternity that is loosely based on GW’s Sigma Nu chapter, of which Cohen was a member.
Jake, as the protagonist, is first in a long line of spineless undeveloped characters, all of whom are brothers in the fictitious Tau Mu fraternity in the 1980s.
As the novel begins, a 32 year-old Jake – in the midst of an unimaginative mid-life crisis – returns to GW to find his fraternity house has been turned into a parking lot.
For the next 200 pages, he stands in front of the lot remembering every detail of his college experience, beginning with his first night in Thurston Hall. Jake has a remarkable memory, especially considering he is drunk for the majority of those pages. The whole drunken flashback is nauseating and depicts Tau Mu as a group of uneducated, immature chauvinists.
The characters blend together, further perpetuating the notion that fraternities are homogenous and exclusive. The brothers are so alike the reader often mistakes one Tau Mu member for another.
By the end of the novel, readers are supposed to have a greater understanding of the special bonds between fraternity brothers, but Cohen unsuccessfully develops these friendships. The only bonds between characters rely on alcohol or the degradation of women.
Misogenistic attitudes prevail throughout the novel and further depict Tau Mu members as the stereotypical fraternity brothers of movies and television shows. The brothers have groupies whom they refer to as “little sisters.” The little sisters are passed around from brother to brother to perform sexual acts. The women even hold events, like an all-night porn-fest for the brothers, assuring readers the novel is some sort of perverted male fantasy.
With chapter titles such as “Too Bad, I Did Her,” readers should not be surprised by the low-class dialogue that plagues the novel: “One of the truly great things about the vagina is that just about half the world’s population has one. So, it’s hardly the scarce resource some women would like to have you believe it is,” Brother Dennis says.
Dennis’ reference to women is one of the few that does not include a four-letter word. In fact, female readers will find reading this book as comfortable as a gynecological exam.
Women are not the only group demeaned in House of Kidz. Jews also take a verbal beating from Tau Mu brothers. Jake often denies his Jewish heritage to assimilate to his anti-Semitic fraternity, which will anger any reader who believes ancestry is something of which to be proud. Jake rediscovers Judaism at the end of the novel because of his wife Sara, who he begins dating his senior year at GW. But his return to faith does not make up for the constant references to JAPs and Hebs in the rest of the novel.
In the end, Cohen fails to show the benefits of fraternity life. Instead, he paints an ugly picture of GW’s Greek-letter community in the 1980s – one that readers will find disturbing and alarming.