Back when I was still a college professor, it seemed prudent to start publishing books that were at least scholarly in intent. American Prom was my first such effort – after which I lost interest in professoring altogether and went on to do other things. American Prom, however, remains with us. The research is solid and was several years in the gathering. The book itself is a study of coming-of-age practices in North America, among middle-class Americans for the most part. The premise is that given how other cultures have “exotic” coming-of-age practices, ours should have these practices too; but living “inside” that culture, we tend not to see them as such, mainly because we consider them a normal part of everyday life. Of course, we never stop to think – not from the inside – that for someone looking in from the outside, our coming-of-age practices are just as exotic to them as theirs are to ours.
So I took a look at prom from the “outside.” And when seen like that, it’s every bit as coming-of-age as, oh, I don’t know, what Aboriginal Australians do, or Native Americans.
The book is not exactly scholarly, although it presents a wealth of source material that can be used in a scholarly way. It consists of a selection from thousands of narratives, and these stay as close as possible to the prom-goers’ original telling. The narratives are arranged in categories, and each category is headed by a scholarly-ish introduction that explains the category’s purpose in the overall cultural institution we think of as American Prom.
Anyhow, I haven’t revisited things prom in some years, and the research website that once prompted it has been sold, but I’m glad to see the book sits in a good number of libraries – possibly as a reference manual, and hopefully not a doorstop.
Want to take a peek inside? You can find the book on Amazon: American Prom