Grace Wang

Soundtracks of Asian America

Navigating Race Through Musical Performance

Duke University Press 2015

New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Asian American StudiesNew Books in MusicNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books Network November 9, 2015 Rich Schur

Many people assume that music, especially classical music, is a universal language that transcends racial and class boundaries. At the same time, many musicians,...

Many people assume that music, especially classical music, is a universal language that transcends racial and class boundaries. At the same time, many musicians, fans, and scholars praise music’s ability to protest injustice, transform social relations and give voice to the marginalized. There is a tension between the ideas of music as a universal language and the voice of the oppressed.

In her new book Soundtracks of Asian America: Navigating Race Through Musical Performance (Duke University Press, 2015), Grace Wang explores how the music and sound, not simply appearance, produces and reinforces racial and ethnic stereotypes and inequality about Asian Americans. Examining classical and pop music in the United States and in Asia, Wang reveals how music and attitudes toward music are essential in crafting identities and navigating racial and class boundaries. Wang uncovers that while music and the discourses around it can reify harmful and limiting stereotypes about Asian Americans, music also provides spaces for artistic and personal freedom and creativity. These creative spaces, however, are not completely unmarked by the race, ethnicity, or social class.

Grace Wang is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of California, Davis. She also serves as affiliate faculty with the Cultural Studies Graduate Group. Her areas of interest include Asian American studies, transnational American studies, immigration, race, and music. You can read the introduction to Soundtracks of Asian America here.

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