Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. v

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Preface

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pp. vii-ix

To paraphrase Alice Walker citing Toni Morrison, I wished to create a book that I should have been able to read in school, but had not found.1 Since there were no models for what I murkily envisioned, I considered “acceptable” topics, ranging from the social history of Chinese American women in Los Angeles to a labor/organizational history of Asian Americans and entertainment. After...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-10

Lightbulbs flash. Pop! This way Miss Wong, over here. She smiles, turns, then smiles at the camera from a different angle. Her straw coolie hat is set at a rakish angle. Fashion writers note the details of her cream suit that is cut in the current Western style with Chinese fastenings, her rectangular clutch handbag made in Paris, customized with her Chinese name, Frosted Yellow Willow, in Chinese...

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1. “ A Feeling of Belonging”: Chi Alpha Delta, 1928–1941

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pp. 11-46

Spring 1941. The sun sparkles and the flowers glow against the terracotta-colored brick buildings at the University of California, Los Angeles. Imagine, if you will, that you are a new member of the sorority Chi Alpha Delta. You have just been initiated into membership with your eager pledge class and have just discovered that your sorority has the campus’s highest grade point average.1 For your first Spring Formal dance, your sorors suggest smooth dates...

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2. “I Protest”: Anna May Wong and the Performance of Modernity

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pp. 47-86

In the 1939 movie King of Chinatown, one first glimpses Chinese American actress Anna May Wong putting down her surgical implements, taking off her cap and mask after a successful emergency room operation. 1 King of Chinatown underscores the professional competence of Wong’s character, Dr.Mary Ling, for immediately after the surgery the Bay Area hospital director offers her the position...

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3. Shortcut to Glamour: Popular Culture in a Consumer Society [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 87-120

This chapter examines the paradox alluded to in the above quotations: in the post–World War II era, Asian Americans claimed modernity, cultural citizenship, and civil rights through consumer and youth cultures. According to many cultural critics, dominant hegemonic society uses consumer culture to make society accede to its will, not through coercion but by making its power seem natural and legitimate. Why, then, did the language and narratives...

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4. Contested Beauty: Asian American Beauty Culture during the Cold War

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pp. 121-154

In the post–World War II era, leading Asian American civil rights groups such as the Chinese American Citizens League and the Caballeros de Dimas Alang centered their annual meetings on beauty pageants. As the above Asian American press excerpts show, beauty pageants enjoyed tremendous salience. Other contemporary queen contests ranged from the one that selected the Cotton Queen to the Miss Portrait of Spring of Chicago, and from the Seattle...

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5. Riding the Crest of an Oriental Wave: Foreign-Born Asian “Beauty”

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pp. 155-188

In the span of a little over a year (1958–1959), Miyoshi Umeki won an Academy Award for best supporting actress, France Nuyen graced the cover of Life magazine, and Akiko Kojima was crowned Miss Universe. As Los Angeles’ Japanese American newspaper Kashu Mainichi observed, “in many fields of the arts the U.S. is riding the crest of an Oriental wave.”1 What distinguishes the late 1950s from the early Cold War era is that in the later period foreign-born Asian women gained...

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6. Conclusion

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pp. 189-190

Shortly after the demise of Scene magazine, in 1955 the Saturday Evening Post published an article on “California’s Amazing Japanese” that echoed Scene’s main theme: negating the racial hatreds that brought about internment by demonstrating liberal-democratic ideal consumer citizenship. The Saturday Evening Post profiled model Japanese American citizens and used that as evidence to condemn internment. Mainstream society thus mirrored Asian American aspirations...

Notes

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pp. 191-230

Index

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pp. 231-239

About the Author

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p. 241