Glamour, Drama, and Everyday Life
By Juliana Chang
For vacation reading, I seek escape in worlds of glamour, gossip, and high drama. Two books, by formidably talented women of color in the entertainment industry, drew me in with this escapist promise and then captivated me with moments of genuine emotion: Ali Wong’s Dear Girls and Mariah Carey’s The Meaning of Mariah Carey.
Dear Girls is a raunchy, biting, explicit, side-splitting series of letters from comedian Ali Wong to her daughters, who famously were “right there” when their very pregnant mom performed her two Netflix stand-up comedy specials. Content warning: sex, drugs, childbirth, bodily fluids, Asian foods. Not for the squeamish!
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Carey’s brilliance as a song-writer has been exceedingly underrated--she has scored nineteen #1 hits, the most by a solo artist. The Meaning of Mariah Carey takes us behind the scenes of these colossal hits and her soaring career: family drama, Sony, Glitter, Derek Jeter, TRL, the pop star that she doesn’t know, a clear-eyed appraisal of her white mom calling the cops on her own, non-white children.
Image from https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250164681.
Compulsively dedicated to their craft, Wong and Carey detail the grind of writing, rehearsing, recording, and going out on the road. Their artistic superpowers spin gold out of the stuff of everyday life. The giddiness of a crush or the humiliation of a failed dalliance becomes a transcendent pop song or a hilarious comic bit. These memoirs make you feel like you’re in the room where it--the magic--happens.
Juliana Chang is Professor of English at Santa Clara University. She teaches courses on Asian American literature and culture. Her Songs of the Summer are by Dua Lipa, Olivia Rodrigo, and Doja Cat, and her favorite summer location is anywhere by the Pacific Ocean.