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The Changs Next Door to the Díazes

Remapping Race in Suburban California

2013
Author:

Wendy Cheng

The Changs Next Door to the Díazes

The multiracial suburb, offering a glimpse into America’s future

Examining the San Gabriel Valley, Wendy Cheng unpacks questions of how identity—especially racial identity—is shaped by place. Informed by nearly seventy interviews, Cheng argues that people’s daily experiences deeply influence their racial consciousness, providing a model for considering the spatial dimensions of racial formation and the significant demographic shifts taking place across the national landscape.

What sets The Changs Next Door to the Díazes apart is Wendy Cheng’s attention to the ways in which the demographic shifts over the last 40 years have made their way into the everyday lives of West San Gabriel Valley residents. Cheng has made a compelling case for the placeness of this part of the San Gabriel Valley.

James Kyung-Jin Lee, University of California, Irvine

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.

Awards

Most Outstanding Book on Asian America award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Asia and Asian America

The Changs Next Door to the Díazes

Wendy Cheng is assistant professor of Asian Pacific American studies and justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University. She is coauthor of A People’s Guide to Los Angeles.

The Changs Next Door to the Díazes

What sets The Changs Next Door to the Díazes apart is Wendy Cheng’s attention to the ways in which the demographic shifts over the last 40 years have made their way into the everyday lives of West San Gabriel Valley residents. Cheng has made a compelling case for the placeness of this part of the San Gabriel Valley.

James Kyung-Jin Lee, University of California, Irvine

“Unpacks the innovative ways racial identity is shaped by place in
the San Gabriel Valley... Delivers an in-depth portrait of race and place in the SGV.”

KCET - LA Letters

Overall, among the factors making Cheng’s work unique is her focus on how dominant communities of color negotiate race in the context of whiteness. Her combination of interviews and academic scholarship will make this accessible book appealing to a range of audiences.

CHOICE

Cheng’s accessible writing and ability to ground theorization of complex racial formations in strong ethnographic material proves her book valuable to advanced researchers and beginning students alike.

Journal of Cultural Geography

A vivid portrait of San Gabriel Valley - a fascinating case study of ethnic relations in a multiethnic suburb.

American Journal of Sociology

The Changs Next Door to the Díazes

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments

Introduction: Theorizing Regional Racial Formation
1. Not “For Caucasians Only”: Race, Property, and Homeownership
2. “The Asian and Latino Thing in Schools”: Academic Achievement and Racialized Privilege
3. “Just Like Any Other Boy”? Race and the San Gabriel Valley Boy Scouts of America
4. Diversity on Main Street: Civic Landscapes and Historical Geographies of Race
5. SGV Dreamgirl: Interracial Intimacies and the Production of Place
Conclusion: How Localized Knowledges Travel

Appendix: Cognitive Maps of Race, Place, and Region
Notes
Bibliography
Index