New American Decades Volume Covers Complex Topics

3 min read

| By Gale Staff |

American Decades: 2010–2019, which covers the cultural, political, and social developments of the previous decade, is being published this week by Gale. Like previous entries in the American Decades series, the reference encyclopedia introduces readers to a first draft of American history through topical chapters: The Arts, Business and the Economy; Education; Fashion and Design; Government and Politics; Law and Justice; Lifestyles and Social Trends; Media; Medicine and Health; Religion; Science and Technology; and Sports. Each chapter has a different author, bringing a variety of perspectives. 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 to life.

American Decades: 2010-2019 is 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 its comprehensiveness, 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 bro,” the Museum of Modern Art (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 last events covered in American Decades: 2010-2019 is the discovery in late 2019 of the COVID-19 virus. This 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 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 is a senior editor at Layman Poupard, where he works with humanities scholars to develop content for Gale’s Literature Criticism Series. He edited American Decades: 2000-2009 and coedited the eight-volume documentary encyclopedia Conflicts in American History. With Hollis Beach, he oversaw the production of Disability Experiences, an award-winning reference work on life writing about illness and disabilities, to which he was also a contributor. He is currently researching a biography of New Dealer and civil rights activist Clark Howell Foreman.

Hollis Beach is a senior editor at Layman Poupard, where he is responsible for content creation, strategy, and research, among other activitiesWith Eric Bargeron, he oversaw the production of Disability Experiences, an award-winning reference work on life writing about illness and disabilities. In addition to his editorial work, he has been a contributor to Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism, Contemporary Literary Criticism, Poetry Criticism, and Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism. He also helps manage the University of South Carolina’s W. Gordon Belser Arboretum.

Leave a Comment