The Changs Next Door to the Díazes
Remapping Race in Suburban California
Publication Year: 2013
U.S. suburbs are typically imagined to be predominantly white communities, but this is increasingly untrue in many parts of the country. Examining a multiracial suburb that is decidedly nonwhite, Wendy Cheng unpacks questions of how identity—especially racial identity—is shaped by place. She offers an in-depth portrait, enriched by nearly seventy interviews, of the San Gabriel Valley, not far from downtown Los Angeles, where approximately 60 percent of residents are Asian American and more than 30 percent are Latino. At first glance, the cities of the San Gabriel Valley look like stereotypical suburbs, but almost no one who lives there is white.
The Changs Next Door to the Díazes reveals how a distinct culture is being fashioned in, and simultaneously reshaping, an environment of strip malls, multifamily housing, and faux Mediterranean tract homes. Informed by her interviews as well as extensive analysis of three episodic case studies, Cheng argues that people’s daily experiences—in neighborhoods, schools, civic organizations, and public space—deeply influence their racial consciousness. In the San Gabriel Valley, racial ideologies are being reformulated by these encounters. Cheng views everyday landscapes as crucial terrains through which racial hierarchies are learned, instantiated, and transformed. She terms the process “regional racial formation,” through which locally accepted racial orders and hierarchies complicate and often challenge prevailing notions of race.
There is a place-specific state of mind here, Cheng finds. Understanding the processes of racial formation in the San Gabriel Valley in the contemporary moment is important in itself but also has larger value as a model for considering the spatial dimensions of racial formation and the significant demographic shifts taking place across the national landscape.
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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Preface and Acknowledgments
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When I was a child growing up in North County San Diego, about once every couple of months my parents would pack up an empty ice chest, along with me, my grandparents, and my brother, and we would drive the hundred miles to Monterey Park, in Los Angeles’s San Gabriel Valley, to stock up on ingredients...
Introduction: Theorizing Regional Racial Formation
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Laura Aguilar, a forty-seven-year-old1 Chicana artist living in Los Angeles’s West San Gabriel Valley (SGV), can trace her family back five generations in the area, since before the U.S. conquest of Alta California. In 2007, when I interviewed her for the research that would eventually become this book, she recounted family stories...
1. Not “For Caucasians Only”: Race, Property, and Homeownership
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One summer afternoon not long ago, Milo Alvarez, a thirty-seven- year- old, fourth- generation Mexican American who grew up in Alhambra, went for a drive in the Monterey Park hills with a friend, also Mexican American. His friend, who was not familiar with the area, wanted to look at a house that was for sale...
2. “The Asian and Latino Thing in Schools”: Academic Achievement and Racialized Privilege
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In the spring of 2005, Alhambra High received the Title I Academic Achievement Award, which recognizes schools with low- income student populations that have made progress in closing the achievement gap.2 Principal Russell Lee- Sung arranged a meeting with student government leaders to announce the good news...
3. “Just Like Any Other Boy”? Race and the San Gabriel Valley Boy Scouts of America
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Boy Scout Troop 252 was chartered in 1922, when the West San Gabriel Valley (SGV) municipality that hosted it was a newly incorporated, semirural town on the outskirts of Los Angeles— still decades away from becoming the even sprawl of strip malls, faux- Mediterranean townhomes, and aging 1950s subdivisions...
4. Diversity on Main Street: Civic Landscapes and Historical Geographies of Race
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Driving north toward Alhambra’s Main Street on Garfi eld Boulevard in the summer of 2006, soon enough you would see a banner featuring a sedate blond white woman with blue eyes and black- rimmed glasses (Figure 11). She was a prominent face of Alhambra City Council’s “diversity” campaign, a face that, unlike the vast majority...
5. SGV Dreamgirl: Interracial Intimacies and the Production of Place
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In the late 2000s, the local street- wear brand called “SGV” produced a T- shirt, which they called “SGV dreamgirl,” featuring a black-and-white image of an attractive, dark- haired and dark- eyed woman, overlaid with the repeating three-letter brand logo (Figure 19). Th e website catalog description of the shirt read...
Conclusion: How Localized Knowledges Travel
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In the decades aft er World War II, channeled by systemic patt erns of housing discrimination that steered them away from more exclusively white areas but valorized them relative to would- be African American homeowners, Asian Americans and Latinas/os became neighbors in the West San Gabriel Valley...
Appendix: Cognitive Maps of Race, Place, and Region
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What defines the West SGV as a place? How do regional racial hierarchies shape its contours, its internal and external boundaries? How does this vary for individuals whose bodies are differentially racialized, gendered, and classed? To begin to get an idea of the answers to these questions, cognitive mapping...
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Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013