Smith College is unlike any other American university. An all-women’s school, it’s an historically posh place for educating the elite (like alums Barbara Bush, Nancy Reagan, and Julia Child), yet at the same time, it’s a breeding ground for liberal lesbians so intense they’ll risk everything for a cause. You can’t really know what to expect there, which is what four dorm mates find when they start first year. The group, which includes a slightly-smelly radical, a lapsed Catholic, an engaged southern belle, and a prepster, become unlikely friends who navigate this special world where feminism is omnipresent, but comes in different forms from rules for girl-on-girl shower times to protesting sex trafficking. The first half of the book takes place at Smith, where much of the entertainment comes from learning about everyday oddities like acronyms for girls who go gay (SLUGs: Smith Lesbian Until Graduation). The second half turns more serious when the four women graduate and find themselves struggling to maintain their friendships and define themselves as feminist women in the real world.
Commencement may be billed as a great summer read, but it has far more depth than your average women’s lit. While fiction, Sullivan’s bright and witty prose weaves itself around real places—the ivy-covered paths of the liberal arts world and the imposing concrete streets of Manhattan—that feel familiar and relevant to real women. [$24.95, Amazon.com]