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The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion Hardcover – December 21, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


The Beautiful Generation is a pleasure to read and a model of how cultural studies ought to be done. Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu’s elegant, well-crafted account of the fashion industry demonstrates the impossibility of separating the aesthetic from the material, or the cultural from the economic. It shows how the changing roles of culture in the global economy can be luminously traced through a focused, interdisciplinary methodology.”—Kandice Chuh, author of Imagine Otherwise: On Asian Americanist Critique

“Exciting and original, The Beautiful Generation exemplifies the best work in the field of cultural studies. Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu reveals the material and ideological struggles behind the constructions of Asianness incorporated into the design, production, and marketing of fashion. She describes how the U.S. fashion industry has been built around racialized, gendered, and sexualized streams of migrants, as well as the complex transnational flows of capital, and she brilliantly argues that it is the ‘architecture and aesthetics of intimacy,’ the fictive and biological kin relations between designers and garment workers, that fuels Asian American fashion design.”—Martin F. Manalansan IV, author of Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora

“[A] book that brilliantly explores the ascent of fashion’s Asian/American young guns and anchors their success in how they’ve made resourceful use of their connections to the bottom of fashion’s pyramid—the cutters and sewers who assemble the clothes imagined in couture’s luxe halls.”
(Jeff Yang Wall Street Journal "Tao Jones" blog)

The Beautiful Generation exemplifies emerging cultural studies scholarship in that it theorizes the complex intersections of race, immigration, globalization, and culture's contributions to our current neoliberal economy. This highly original study demonstrates the author's strength in navigating interdisciplinarity. . . . Offering new ways to think about meanings of family, the production and consumption of Asianness, and the inequalities built in fashion as it relates to manufacturing and globalization, this book is ideal for teaching and serves as a model for future research.”
(Nhi Lieu Journal of Asian American Studies)

The Beautiful Generation, as much a fashion history as a cultural study, gracefully takes us . . . from Gaultier’s introduction of luxe Chinese coats in seventeenth century Paris, to American Vogue’s strategic establishment of ‘fashion designer as cultural anthropologist’ in the mid-‘90s, and finally to the curiously successfully rise of Asian American designers in the present decade. While it’s all a good read, the last is arguably the highlight of the book; Nguyen Tu’s compelling examination of Asian American designers, whose precarious positions in the industry are plainly defined by their historic exclusion from it, is clearly a point of personal connection for her.”
(Catherine A. Traywick Hyphen)

“[An] ambitious exploration of the contemporary contemporary significance of Asian-American designers. . . . Using anecdotes and interviews to support her thesis of intimacy, she details a network of kinship and gifts that create ‘families’ out of ordinarily distant, detached sweatshop stitchers and the hardworking but nevertheless privileged creatives who employ them.”
(Kimberly Chun Bitch)

“It should be said right at the start that this book is unusual among academic products in being very lucidly written, self-critical, and sympathetic to the subjects under survey in a way that doesn’t exclude expressions of doubt about, for example, interviewees’ motives and indeed truthfulness. . . . Above all, the author is writing about her own kind, and as an Asian-American herself she shows great insight into this particular social group, and into this now rather characteristic Asian-American occupation.”
(Bradley Winterton Taipei Times)

“With the academic equivalent of military prowess, assistant professor of Asian Pacific Studies at New York University Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu flanks the topic of Asian Americans in fashion...Tu’s work illustrates interdisciplinary academia at its best, not only conquering the topic from all angles but also exploring it through multiple methodologies.” 
(E.P. Cutler Women's Studies Quarterly)

About the Author

Thuy Linh Nguyen Tu is Assistant Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies at New York University. She is a co-editor of Alien Encounters: Popular Culture in Asian America, also published by Duke University Press, and TechniColor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (December 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082234890X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822348900
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,450,112 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ManWah B Yuen on February 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was the first book I purchased for my Kindle and I really enjoyed it. Folks who are not accustomed to academic writing might sometimes find the book a little bit dense at times, but I didn't think it was too difficult and I certainly don't have any kind of advanced degree. I learned a lot about not just Asian American fashion designers, but also about the fashion industry in general in Asia and in New York. It was fun to get a little insight on designers whom I otherwise only knew as labels I have seen at Anthropologie or high end department store websites, and very interesting to learn a little more about the day-to-day concerns of a small-time fashion designer and the ways in which aspects of Asian American community that I am familiar with as a Chinese American woman can have an effect on this career path. I also really enjoyed the section about Orientalism in fashion as I have had my own opinions on this since I experienced this trend in the 90s, and always enjoy reading about these sorts of things on fashion blogs like Threadbared (which you should definitely check out if you liked this book).
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ROROTOKO on October 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
This book is on the Rorotoko list. Professor Tu's interview on "The Beautiful Generation" ran as the Rorotoko Cover Feature on August 24, 2011 (and can be read in the Rorotoko archive).
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The Beautiful Generation: Asian Americans and the Cultural Economy of Fashion
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