Whiter: Asian American Women on Skin Color and Colorism

Nikki Khanna (Editor)


Heartfelt personal accounts from Asian American women on their experiences with skin color bias, from being labeled "too dark" to becoming empowered to challenge beauty standards

"I have a vivid memory of standing in my grandmother's kitchen, where, by the table, she closely watched me as I played. When I finally looked up to ask why she was staring, her expression changed from that of intent observer to one of guilt and shame. . . . 'My anak (dear child), ' she began, 'you are so beautiful. It is a shame that you are so dark. No Filipino man will ever want to marry you.'"--"Shade of Brown," Noelle Marie Falcis

How does skin color impact the lives of Asian American women? In Whiter, thirty Asian American women provide first-hand accounts of their experiences with colorism in this collection of powerful, accessible, and brutally honest essays, edited by Nikki Khanna.

Featuring contributors of many ages, nationalities, and professions, this compelling collection covers a wide range of topics, including light-skin privilege, aspirational whiteness, and anti-blackness. From skin-whitening creams to cosmetic surgery, Whiter amplifies the diverse voices of Asian American women who continue to bravely challenge the power of skin color in their own lives.

Product Details

New York University Press
Publish Date
March 10, 2020
6.0 X 0.8 X 9.0 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

Nikki Khanna is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Vermont and author of Biracial in America: Forming and Performing Racial Identity.


"[Whiter] is an eye-opening book that aims to help us better understand the role of skin color in social mobility."--Bitch Magazine
"Whiter captures the many dimensions of colorism that shape Asian women's lives. Messages from mothers, others, and the surrounding cultures all coincide to constrain women's sense of beauty, family, identity, and worth. But Nikki Khanna and the distinguished contributors to this volume capture the many ways, both subtle and overt, that women negotiate, succumb to, and defy the dominant messages around skin color. This volume is a wonderful combination of sociology, cultural studies, memoir, history, media studies, and poetics bringing a diversity of voices and perspectives to this conversation."--Margaret Hunter, author of Race, Gender, and the Politics of Skin Tone
"Colorism affects Asian American women of every background, whether it's due to Asian beauty standards, colonialism, or racism. Khanna taps into the cultural pressures to possess lighter skin color. By curating relatable and thought-provoking stories from a diverse group of Asian American women in their own voices, Whiter will appeal to a wide breadth of readers--from gender and race scholars to anyone interested in deconstructing beauty standards."--Nancy Wang Yuen, author of Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism