Friday, February 27, 2015

Members Only

Today, I'm tickled to be part of the Zest Rockin' Blog Tour, highlighting one of their very fun and just a little irreverent titles, Members Only: Secret Societies, Sects, and Cults -- Exposed! by Julie Tibbott.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members,” opined Groucho Marx famously. But exclusivity is at the heart of this book that seeks to de-mystify some of the more shadowy organizations that crop up from time-to-time through cultural references, the very sort which appeal so much to teens.

This fun volume from Zest Books takes a scattershot approach to its topic, jumping from spiritualism at Lily Dale to invitation-only senior clubs at Ivy League colleges. It doesn’t talk about Scientology, but I guess that’s practically it’s own volume.
The book is organized alphabetically, assessing each group's threat level, not just in terms of potential harm to others but also in terms of threats to self, which says a lot about the human urge for belonging.  There’s lots of associated content, too, for groups which don’t have their own chapter, and some interesting black-and-white images.
Strangely, I had few personal connections to the chapters. Two of my alma maters are mentioned. There is a passage about the scandalous behavior of Dartmouth SAEs, which was outed a few years ago in the infamous Rolling Stone article, and a chapter about “the Machine,” the Panhellenic alliance that influences so much of life at the University of Alabama. It was only reading this chapter that I realized that an attempt to coordinate elections at college, spearheaded by a Birmingham native, was heavily influenced by the Tuscaloosa political model.
I learned LOTS reading this book -- notably, that the Branch Davidians were an offshoot of the Seventh Day adventists, that there was a super-swanky club in Disneyland, and that a confrontation with California Representative Leo Ryan and his camera crew preceded the infamous Jonestown group suicide.
Members Only was like catnip to my students, who kept asking about the book well before I had it cataloged. This is a great addition to the “speculative knowledge” area of any collection. And best of all, I finally have a print source for students researching Masons or the Illuminati.
Would you like a copy of Members Only for your collection? Zest will be giving one way to one of my dear readers. Enter here, and check out the blog tour for other opportunities to win some great nonfiction for teens.

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