Soundtracks of Asian America

Navigating Race through Musical Performance

Soundtracks of Asian America

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 4 illustrations Published: January 2015

Author: Grace Wang

American Studies, Asian American Studies, Music

In Soundtracks of Asian America, Grace Wang explores how Asian Americans use music to construct narratives of self, race, class, and belonging in national and transnational spaces. She highlights how they navigate racialization in different genres by considering the experiences of Asians and Asian Americans in Western classical music, U.S. popular music, and Mandopop (Mandarin-language popular music). Her study encompasses the perceptions and motivations of middle-class Chinese and Korean immigrant parents intensely involved in their children's classical music training, and of Asian and Asian American classical musicians whose prominence in their chosen profession is celebrated by some and undermined by others. Wang interviews young Asian American singer-songwriters who use YouTube to contest the limitations of a racialized U.S. media landscape, and she investigates the transnational modes of belonging forged by Asian American pop stars pursuing recording contracts and fame in East Asia. Foregrounding musical spaces where Asian Americans are particularly visible, Wang examines how race matters and operates in the practices and institutions of music making.


Soundtracks of Asian America is an extremely articulate, insightful investigation of racial imagination as it relates to Asian Americans and Asian diasporas. . . . Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” — A. C. Shahriari, Choice

"[Soundtracks of Asian America] is an engaging and thought-provoking addition to cultural studies that uses music-making as a microcosm to draw out difficult racial themes." — Felicity Clark, Popular Music

"In following stereotypes across different social domains, Wang opens up some broader questions about Asian American musical geographies and practices of community formation. Future research on these issues will greatly profit from close readings of Soundtracks of Asian America." — Timothy Laurie, Journal of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music

"[Wang] is restrained in her deployment of a reflexive voice, yet her previous experiences as a U.S.-trained violinist who performed a stint with Taiwan’s National Symphony Orchestra (p. 5) clearly give her rich personal insight into the subject at hand. The book will find warm welcome in a range of disciplinary settings, from Asian and Asian American studies to musicology and media studies. Incisively and engagingly written, it will also serve as an invaluable resource for students and scholars seeking insight into topics as diverse as transnational stardom, the cultural politics of online media, music pedagogy, and the anthropology of the conservatory." — Meredith Schweig, Notes

“Wang shows us how transnational oral histories can help us to ask alternative questions about how and why people imagine and construct ideas about diaspora and about nation-states as situated within specific times and places.” — Mari Nagatomi, Oral History Review

"At its heart, Soundtracks of Asian America is a timely, nuanced, and compelling reading of contemporary U.S. racial politics. . . . Ultimately, Soundtracks delivers more than it promises." — Yun Emily Wang, CHINOPERL

"Soundtracks of Asian America is smart and informed, capacious and beautifully written. Arguing that the racialized imagination works similarly across musical genres, Grace Wang explores senses of Asian and Asian American belonging across the worlds of classical and popular music. From young classical musicians' parents as key sites of ideology formation to the 'reverse migration' of young Asian Americans to East Asian popular music markets, her case studies are inspired and telling." — Deborah Wong, author of Speak It Louder: Asian Americans Making Music

"Soundtracks of Asian America makes a wonderful contribution to cultural studies and ethnic studies by demonstrating the many different ways in which racial difference is not only seen, but also heard. Encompassing a dazzling array of different musical forms mastered by Asian Americans in diverse locations, Grace Wang's book brilliantly demonstrates how participation in musical performance leads Asian Americans today to complex and contradictory ascriptions, aspirations and identities."
— George Lipsitz, author of Footsteps in the Dark: The Hidden Histories of Popular Music


Availability: In stock
Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Grace Wang is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Soundtracks of Asian America 1

1. Interlopers in the Realm of High Culture: "Music Moms" and the Performance of Asian Difference 28

2. "This Is No Monkey Show": Racializing Musical Performance 64

3. A Love Song to YouTube: Celebrity and Fandom Online 101

4. Finding Sonic Belonging Abroad: Reimagining Chinese American Subjectivities through Diaspora 143

Epilogue. Enter the "Tiger Mother" 186

Acknowledgments 193

Notes 195

Bibliography 245

Index 257
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5784-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5769-8
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