Accent Is Identity


Accent is Identity—American Cultural Context

Not to get too political here, but being an American in 2017 isn’t a simple proposition. But no matter how any individual American might feel about their government, current events, or present standing and image in the world, there are still broadly shared cultural referents and standpoints. People are people, to be sure, but within a given culture, even within a nation as large as the United States, there is much that is shared.


The suggestions below aren’t meant to glorify Americans or American history, nor to critique prevailing views. They certainly aren’t comprehensive. They’re a grab bag of suggestions for getting your imagination going. Some offer insight about how Americans view themselves—some deep shared assumptions, core beliefs and ideals. Some offer vivid descriptions and details about the texture of American life, in the past and present. You may have read or seen some of these before (especially some of the movies, I imagine!). But if you’re rereading or re-seeing something, make sure to read or watch from an actor’s perspective, imagining yourself into the story, the people, the time and place.


Founding myths and American ideals

Washington, A Life, Ron Chernow

Hamilton, Ron Chernow

Democracy in America, de Toqueville

The Declaration of Independence

Washington’s Farewell Address

Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural

The Gettysburg Address

FDR, ‘nothing to fear except fear itself’

JFK Inaugural

MLK Letter from a Birmingham Jail

MLK I Have a Dream

Barack Obama, Jeremiah Wright speech

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d

Emily Dickinson, poems



American Beauty

Edward Scissorhands


The Great Escape

The Front Page

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

It’s a Wonderful Life

An Affair to Remember

The Social Network

Forrest Gump

Citizen Kane

A Touch of Evil

Once Upon a Time in America

The Right Stuff

Bowling for Columbine

Do the Right Thing


Hidden Figures

Dances with Wolves

The Ice Storm

Double Indemnity


To Kill a Mockingbird

Top Gun

Saving Private Ryan

Remember the Titans


Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

The Maltese Falcon


The African Queen

Good Morning Vietnam

The World According to Garp

Malcolm X



The West Wing

The Wire

Breaking Bad

John Adams


Orange is the New Black

The Twilight Zone


Mad Men

I Love Lucy

All in the Family

Little House on the Prairie





Bob Dylan

Duke Ellington

Lauryn Hill

John Coltrane

Charles Mingus

Louis Armstrong

Ella Fitzgerald

Woody Guthrie

Johnny Cash

Green Day, American Idiot

virtually all Broadway musicals

Cole Porter

Rogers and Hammerstein

Stephen Sondheim

Leonard Bernstein


Don McLean, American Pie

Bruce Springsteen

John Cougar Mellencamp

Jon Bon Jovi


Lou Reed

jazz—the American art form


Visual Art

John Singer Sargent

Georgia O’Keefe

Robert Rauschenburg

Jackson Pollock

Edward Hopper

Andy Warhol

Jasper Johns

Norman Rockwell

Andrew Wyeth

Washington Crossing the Delaware


Books & Plays

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The Catcher in the Rye

The Invisible Man

The Scarlet Letter

Little House on the Prairie

The Great Gatsby

The Sun Also Rises

The Corrections

Louis Lamour

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Jack London, The Call of the Wild

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

The Crucible

Death of a Salesman

A Prayer for Owen Meaney

Cider House Rules

The Grapes of Wrath

The Old Man and the Sea

Little House on the Prairie

Little Women

A Farewell to Arms

On the Road


The Sound and the Fury


The Glass Menagerie



Interested in learning more about "General" American? Check out my online classes!

"General" American 101—The Essentials

"General" American 102—Building Skills

"General" American 103—Putting it All Together