Guest Post by Brian Hu
As the recent conversation about America's "great" days reminds us, nostalgia is a luxury of the privileged for whom history can afford to be rose-colored or sepia-tinted. Nostalgia assumes too that one has a history, or at least one stable enough from which to cull cultural artifacts and collective memories to celebrate.
As a child of immigrants, I've never been able to quite identify with the nostalgia of such films as The Big Chill, Almost Famous, and Dazed and Confused because their wall-to-wall soundtracks of 60s and 70s American pop songs weren't the ones my parents played for me when I was growing up. I came to love the songs in adulthood, but they didn't remind me of my parents nor did they trigger simpler times. Those films and their songs created in me an imagined nostalgia, empty memories that I tried to convince myself were mine. And for the most part it worked. Marvin Gaye, The Who, KISS. I knew their names and I knew their lyrics.
I'm sure my parents listened to "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "Whiter Shade of Pale," or any number of other English-language oldies while growing up in Taiwan in the 1960s. But those weren't the cassette tapes they played and replayed for my sister and me in the 80s. I didn't know the names of the artists or the titles of their songs, but based on the folk guitars and the haircuts on the album art, I suspect that my parents' music preferences were locked to Taiwan circa-1979, when they moved to the United States. While Taiwanese pop music evolved and Mando-pop exploded in the 80s and 90s, the songs blearing out of our cloth-covered speakers or our 1988 Honda Accord stayed the same, our cassette collection a musical time capsule of the world my parents left behind.