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Center for the Arts and Humanities Blog

Image courtesy of Mayra Sierra-Rivera '20, Studio art major

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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!

Dear Girls by Ali Wong book cover
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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.

The Meaning of Mariah Carey book cover
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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.


summer 2021 blog
Juliana Chang

Juliana Chang is Professor of English and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Her publications include the books Inhuman Citizenship: Traumatic Enjoyment and Asian American Literature and Quiet Fire: A Historical Anthology of Asian American Poetry 1892-1970, as well as several articles on Asian American literature and film. Her current work is on Asian Americans and popular music.