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Oberlin author hits big time with ‘Young Money’

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OBERLIN — It was purely coincidental that the “Wolf of Wall Street,” the Oscar-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was released about the same time as Oberlin native Kevin Roose’s book that follows young Wall Street bankers.

The coincidence didn’t hurt sales.

Roose’s book, “Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits,” was named a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller, as well as an Amazon Best Book of February 2014.

Reviews have drawn comparisons between Roose’s book and the popular movie.

“If Martin Scorsese’s film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is about the finance industry’s greediest adults, Kevin Roose’s “Young Money” is a look at those wolves as cubs ... a surprisingly sympathetic portrait,” said Amazon.com.

For “Young Money,” Roose followed eight young workers at financial companies, such as Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase. The book is about how the crash of 2008 reshaped the experiences of young bankers on Wall Street.

“I was curious as to what their lives were like, and nothing had really been written about what it was like for people who were starting out,” he said.

Roose learned that Wall Street is a very different place than small town Oberlin, where he grew up.

“It’s a very strange culture — Wall Street,” he said.

Roose’s research for the book led him to a secret underground society of top executives who are part of a Wall Street fraternity called Kappa Beta Phi. Induction into the society requires dressing in drag and performing in a variety show, Roose said.

But young bankers are leading very different lives, toiling away during 100-hour workweeks. While those bankers are well-paid, Roose said many of them have become jaded and have lost relationships due to the strain of the job.

“Their lives are not that glamorous,” he said. “They make a lot of money, but they don’t have time to spend it because they’re working.”

Roose added that the Occupy Wall Street movement, a demonstration against financial greed and corruption, damaged the young bankers’ attitudes of their careers. He said one banker he followed would tell people that he worked as a “consultant.”

While there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for young bankers, Roose said many switch careers, pursuing jobs with Google or Facebook. He said they feel that those jobs are both financially and emotionally satisfying.

Roose said he is surprised by the response he has received after writing the book. Recently, he was approached by a TV network, which is interested in creating a TV show based on the book.

“It’s been fantastic,” he said.

“Young Money” is Roose’s second non-fiction work. A writer for New York Magazine, his first book, “The Unlikely Discipline,” chronicled Roose’s semester undercover at the evangelical Liberty Christian University in Lynchburg, Va. That book was published in 2009.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

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