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 nwhite, 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, t far from downtown Los Angeles, where approximately 60 percent of residents are Asian American and more than 30 percent are Lati. At first glance, the cities of the San Gabriel Valley look like stereotypical suburbs, but almost one who lives there is white. The Changs Next Door to the Diazes 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 tions 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.
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.