From the vantage point of a retired military officer and corporate executive, the author offers individual observations of seismic changes to our culture that have dramatically divided our nation over the last fifty years.
Whether the reader is a senior citizen looking back at life through a rear view mirror, a young adult contemplating an incomprehensible future, or a teenager studying history, this book will appeal to each from a different perspective.
Wherever the reader fits into these categories, a 50-year mosaic of changes over this period highlights profound generational differences. It has become increasingly difficult for seniors to identify with the mores, customs, values, traditions and habits of the younger generations and for younger citizens to relate to family members who may be facing life in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
America: A Cultural Enigma highlights some of the things that account for those differences. It is not a historical document. It is the author's personal observation of huge cultural shifts that have taken place among diverse segments of our society over the last fifty years. It may help the reader put those events into a more personal perspective.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“America: A Cultural Enigma” is one man’s personal exploration of how America has changed in the last 50 years, from 1963 to 2013. The author was born in 1935 and so has lived through a lot of cultural change, and has a unique vantage from which to comment on much that is currently going on in society. The book addresses what it calls “seismic changes” in America, from demographic shifts, to a change in family unit dynamics, to medical advances, and more. Each chapter focuses on a specific issue (for instance, standard of living or the abortion) and discusses the current state of the issue today and how that issue has changed in the past fifty years; the author also freely puts in his own opinions and anecdotes about his life to put things in perspective. The author also bolsters his comments with many quotes, statistics, and studies to underscore just how much things have changed—often to the country’s detriment. The book also wraps up with a look at troublesome cultural customs, such as having no national language and the prevalence of things like using a cell phone while driving. As someone born in the 1980s, I found a lot of Donald Gilleland’s stories and perspectives very interesting; when someone has grown up with something a certain way, they don’t necessarily question it or understand why an older person might have a problem with it. Gilleland writes eloquently and his chapters are well-organized (though he sometimes goes down a rabbit hole with some issues before coming back to the main point); his book made me think and examine my own beliefs and values and compare them against those held in the not-distant past. My favorite chapter, however, was the one in which Gilleland covers 50 years of significant American events, from the JFK assassination to the BP oil spill; his commentary is woven into the details of the events themselves in a way that is interesting and informative. I can’t say I always agree with the author’s opinions on certain matters—and he doesn’t try to remain bias free—I would still recommend “America: A Cultural Enigma” to readers who are interested in social issue, change over the nation’s recent history, and cultural values.
I have to admit that I did not have much faith in finding America: A Cultural Enigma by Donald L. Gilleland interesting. After all, this is not a story with characters but a book that highlights some personal observations covering some cultural changes over the last fifty years. We all observed some changes (many of the same ones the author covers) so how interesting can this book be? Now that have read it all I can tell you, it is extremely interesting! I admit I don't always see eye to eye with the author on every subject: illegal immigrants for example. The author states: "The sentiment seems to have changed from a willingness to deport illegal immigrants to the belief that we must embrace all those who came to our country illegally." I don't see it that way because the sentiment is not by us (the legal American general population) but forced on us by those who have the money and power who are seeing this as an opportunity for votes. Another issue is Social Security and other programs which the author claims we rely on the federal government for. In 1983 the contribution into the fund was increased significantly because not only were the baby boomers required to pay for preceding generations, they are also paying into it for their own retirement. This generated approximately $2.5 Trillion dollars surplus that was suppose to be in a trust fund. The government has spent all of this surplus of the Social Securities collected from the people on Non-Social Security related projects. So now the government wants to cut benefits, raise the taxes or both for those who paid the most into it because there is not enough money. I do agree a lot of times with the author, especially about the slavery issue. The author states: "What is seldom remembered is that many black Americans in the 19th Century also owned slaves." He furthers states: "Considering only five percent of all the trans-Atlantic slaves ended up in North America, it is amazing that the majority of U.S. films, books, and articles concerning the slave trade concentrate only on the United States, as though slavery was a uniquely American aberration." I know we were never taught in school! There are just way too many subjects to cover but they are all interesting. Most are very current issues that are still being debated in one way or another even today. It doesn't really matter if you or I agree or not with the author on every subject, the point is that it all make sense (even those points I don't agree with). He provides tons of information and even had me thinking about things I haven't since I was a teen. The author is great about telling his sources and the movie, From Conception to Birth (he provides the address in the chapter) was amazing! Even the unpopular topics such as abortion, same sex marriages, and religion to name a few are all done in good taste. Also covered are some topics that I wish I didn't read right before bed. The subject is disturbing but everyone should be aware of foreign and domestic threats. The author explains it well and even if you don't agree (although I find it hard not to agree with him) it is still good to at least keep it in the back of your mind. I found this to be an excellent book and recommend it to everyone!
A journey that presents our current would from a unique perspective. “America: A Cultural Enigma” by Author Donald L. Gilleland is a remarkable book that presents a realm of past and present that readers from all generations can enjoy. In many ways the book I felt presents certain facts that give us, as Americans, a birds eye view of the issues and cultural changes taking place in our great country. It teaches us the values of what we had and what we can loose if we forgot where we came and the core values of who we are as a nation. It took me three nights to put down this book from start to finish. For those of you who have read my prior reviews, you know that I’m a pretty fast reader. This book took me longer not so much because of its length but rather because of the profound message of cultural enigmas that present itself in our every day lives. In closing, this is a book that everyone, from the young adult to the seasoned veteran can enjoy time and time again. 5 Stars