As a graduate of a small, private, Christian liberal arts university, the concept of a military academy was wholly unfamiliar to me. My husband, however, attended West Point. In an effort to get to know him better (via that 4-year experience) and to learn more about a place that may very well be in our future, I elected to read “Absolutely American.’ As a military spouse, my experience as a professor’s wife would be vastly different from what is found in this book. Nonetheless, it offered me thorough insight into the student experience, history and traditions of the academy, and the values that are instilled in every West Point graduate.
David Lipsky spent four years following a cross-section of the West Point class of 2002. He organizes the book into four sections, highlighting the main events in each of the cadets’ freshman through senior (or plebe through firstie) years. At first, the book felt disjointed rather than linear because the author would include stories of cadets not in the class of 2002. Eventually, I realized that Lipsky probably chose the anecdotes that best exemplified what he was trying to portray about the academy and the officers it produces, even if they seemed to be misplaced. Perhaps the most moving part of the book was reading about the responses of cadets to the events of September 11th. Their senior year became one consumed by the reality of war and the knowledge of what awaited them immediately following graduation.
As a Southern Californian, I come from a very low-tradition context. West Point, on the other hand, is oozing with tradition. I’m grateful for having read this book, as it has given me an appreciation for the ways in which tradition binds the hearts of cadets to one another and to the Army as a whole.