Robbins, Alexandra 1976–
Robbins, Alexandra 1976–
PERSONAL: Born 1976. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1998. Hobbies and other interests: Playing soccer, watching NFL games, and baking pies.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer, journalist, and public speaker. Formerly on staff of the New Yorker; has appeared on numerous television news and interview programs, including 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, The View, The Colbert Report, and Anderson Cooper 360.
(With Abby Wilner) Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, Putnam (New York, NY), 2001.
Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2002.
Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.
The Overachievers: The Secret Life of Driven Kids, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including Atlantic Monthly, New Yorker, Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, and Salon.
ADAPTATIONS: Pledged is being adapted for film by Paramount.
SIDELIGHTS: Alexandra Robbins's first book concerns the challenges of her fellow twenty-somethings. In Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, she and coauthor Abby Wilner provide interviews with dozens of people fresh out of college confronting worklife, money problems, and the freedom to truly shape their own lives for the first time. "Although Quarterlife Crisis doesn't contain all the answers that people in their twenties are looking for, it does feature helpful stories they can relate to," wrote Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley. The various interview subjects address such concerns as dealing with less-than-ideal jobs, the challenges of balancing responsibilities and social life, and even moving back in with parents. A Publishers Weekly contributor found the book "more of a pastiche than a guidebook." The reviewer added that, nevertheless, "for members of Generation-Y, it at least provides proof that they're not alone in feeling pressured, depressed, or disappointed."
In her next book, Robbins takes on a rather more privileged group of collegians and post-collegians. In Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power she charts the history and influence of that most famous of secret societies, whose members have been among the most prominent U.S. citizens, including three presidents. Herself a Yale graduate and member of another secret society, Robbins was able to interview more than 100 "Bonespeople"—the society went co-ed in 1990—to produce "an interesting study, though the casual reader might find it too detailed," according to Booklist reviewer Kristine Huntley. Paul Marx, reviewing the book for the Houston Chronicle, questioned her first chapter, a lurid retelling of the most extreme conspiracy theories surround the Skull and Bones, but added: "Once readers get beyond this misstep and Robbins's real voice comes through, they will find themselves guided by an excellent stylist and a first-rate mind."
For her next book, Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities, Robbins went undercover and socialized with college sorority members to write about sororities and those who join them. Commenting on the book in Kirkus Reviews, a contributor noted: "This lubricious inquiry may infuriate those who value their sorority pins." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, commented that the author's "account of life inside the sorority house … makes for fascinating reading."
The Overachievers: The Secret Life of Driven Kids focuses on high school students who early on develop or are directed toward a strong competitiveness to succeed academically, socially, and eventually in the grown-up world. To research the book, Robbins returned to the high school she had graduated from ten years earlier. In addition to looking at individual students, the author comments on issues such as SAT tests and college admissions, as well as the author's own belief that new policies and attitudes should be put in place to prevent the stress these students face. Stephanie Zvirin, writing in Booklist, commented: "What she discovered is no surprise: the welfare of the individual has taken a backseat to academic success." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the book an "engrossing anthropological study of the cult of overachieving."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties, p. 1801; September 1, 2002, Kristine Huntley, review of Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power, p. 30; March 1, 2004, Margaret Flanagan, review of Pledged: the Secret Life of Sororities, p. 1130; July 1, 2006, Stephanie Zvirin, review of The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids, p. 14.
Houston Chronicle, October 18, 2002, Paul Marx, "Skull and Bones and Two Presidents."
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2002, review of Secrets of the Tomb, p. 1015; February 15, 2004, review of Pledged, p. 169.
Publishers Weekly, May 7, 2001, review of Quarterlife Crisis, p. 236; May 22, 2006, review of The Overachievers, p. 42; June 5, 2006, Michelle Kung, "Herbie: Fully Loaded Director Angela Robinson Will Spearhead Paramount's Pledged, an Adaptation of Alexandra Robbins's Nonfiction Book of the Same Name, about the Sordid World of Sororities," p. 14.
U.S. News & World Report, August 7, 2006, Alex Kingsbury, "17 and All Burned Out," interview with author, p. 16.
Washington Monthly, April, 2004, Margaret Sullivan, review of Pledged, p. 51.
Alexandra Robbins Home Page, http://www.alexandrarobbins.com (October 11, 2006).