American Decades: 2010-2019, which covers the cultural, political, and social developments of the previous decade, was recently produced by Layman Poupard for Gale. Like previous entries in the Decades series, the book is a reference encyclopedia that introduces readers to a first draft of American history through topical chapters: Arts, Business, Education, Fashion, Government, Law, Lifestyles, Media, Medicine, Religion, Science, and Sports. Each has a different author, bringing a variety of perspectives to bear. As they engage in the work of historical interpretation, the contributors to this volume draw on America’s immense treasure trove of diverse voices to bring important recent events fully to life.
The book is also fun. In addition to the narrative through-line of the major topics in the news, chapters include sidebar pieces spotlighting stories and people that are somewhat out of the mainstream, surprising, funny—and essential to the fabric of American culture. Vibrant, full-color illustrations and graphics help to tell these stories and enliven the page. Chronologies, obituaries, and mini-biographies of noteworthy figures add to the comprehensiveness of the book’s account while remaining brisk and accessible to readers. American Decades embraces an open attitude about what constitutes a meaningful cultural figure or event worthy of coverage, and readers will encounter in its pages everything from senators to social-media influencers, football stars to pharma bros, from MOMA to the Marvel universe.
The process of planning and editing this kind of work invites attempts at a broad political interpretation of the period, a difficult task in complicated times. The time span covered begins with Barack Obama’s second year in office and ends with the third year of Donald Trump’s presidency. Political contradictions as well as growing strife and discord in the public sphere seemed to accelerate as American culture moved online. And yet the digital democratization of publication through social media also gave new platforms to historically oppressed and overlooked groups. As this volume amply demonstrates, questions of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice touched every aspect of American life in the 2010s.
Among the very last events covered in American Decades is the discovery in late 2019 of the COVID-19 virus. Indeed, the project was planned, written, and edited in the context of a global pandemic, a fact that added urgency and complexity to our engagement with discussions surrounding the efficacy of science, vaccine skepticism, the role of government in health care, and other vital subjects. As the book’s editors, we hope that readers will find in it a spur to lively and open-minded engagement with the thorny issues of American life, along with the informational tools needed to make that engagement meaningful.
Eric Bargeron and Hollis Beach, Senior Editors, Layman Poupard