A Virtual Bookshelf by Vanessa Díaz, author of MANUFACTURING CELEBRITY:
These books on race, policing, and Hollywood helped shape the ways I approach these themes in Manufacturing Celebrity. I realize that many people might not think about these themes as coming together in discussions of Hollywood, but that is what Manufacturing Celebrity is all about—pulling back the curtain on the racial and gender politics of Hollywood in a way that hasn’t been done before and in a way that, hopefully, changes the way you think about Hollywood and American entertainment and celebrity culture more broadly.
Many in the US are in a moment of deep reckoning with racial hierarchies inherent in the formation of this nation-state, specifically as they relate to law enforcement and policing. Police brutality and mass incarceration are intimately linked and Hinton’s book is a critical read for anyone who wants to understand how we have arrived at the present moment in relationship to the national uprisings around #BlackLivesMatter. Hinton helps us understand that mass incarceration and punitive policing practices are not simply a result of actions from the political “right,” but rather are the result of many decades of bipartisan efforts that have incriminated and policed communities of color, specifically Black communities.
This book is crucial to making sense of the complexity of Latinidad, through a focus on race, language, and education. My students often want me to explain whether Latinos/as/xs are a race or an ethnicity, or something else entirely. There isn’t an easy answer. The students at the Chicago public schools that Rosa researches with and writes about demonstrate—through their daily life and particular linguistic articulations—the relationship between these different categories. He theorizes what he calls a “raciolinguistic perspective” to address the co-naturalization of language and race.
For anyone interested in race and representation in Hollywood, this book is a key read. Yuen addresses the historical and contemporary practices of (white) gatekeeping in Hollywood that perpetuate underrepresentation of BIPOC folks both behind and in front of the camera. She specifically speaks to the racial politics of casting in ways that help us understand who ends up on our favorite shows and films, and who never gets a chance. And yet she underscores the individual and collective agency of the BIPOC actors who inform her research.
Regardless of your literary interests, Cox’s book is simply a beautiful read. If you’re interested in issues of race and gender in the US, her book is an absolute must-read. Cox’s book centers the stories of Black women and girls at a homeless shelter in Detroit, who, through their interactions in daily life as well as through dance and poetry, create (or choreograph) new possibilities and realities for themselves. She also provides a level of depth of character of the Black women and girls she writes about and works with that few ethnographies have ever accomplished.
This book, as well as Dávila’s earlier work Latinos Inc., are foundational to understanding contrasting representations of Latinidad, and especially for interrogating the “whitewashing” of Latino/a/x people. During a time of intense anti-immigrant (and specifically anti-Latin American immigrant) sentiment in the US, alongside the immense popularity of Latin American and Caribbean art forms like reggaeton, Dávila helps us understand the historical and contemporary realities that have led to this moment.