In 1946, ninety-four World War II veterans find themselves in the midst of a sea of cloistered damsels at Vassar College. Four years later, eleven of those veterans graduate. One of them is battle-hardened Frankie Fanelli who was raised in the slums of Newburgh, New York.
Before Frankie enters Vassar he is a physically confident, sexually active, barroom brawler, unhappy that only unskilled jobs are open to him. At first he finds himself intellectually and socially intimidated by the Vassar ambiance. Gradually, he copes with the new demands, not the least of which is a romance with beautiful, self-assured, upper middle-class Alexis.
Interweaving the veterans' experiences with historical documents, articles from student newspapers, and newspaper headlines, Vassar Outlander becomes more than another coming-of-age tale. Characters confront major issues that reverberate today, more than a half-century later, e.g., Israeli-Arab conflict, Korean tension, anti-Semitism, race bias, homosexuality, pre-marital sex, religion, and politics.