“Fresh Off the Boat”

FOBI was so glad to read this Eddie Huang book, even though I couldn’t understand half of it with all the sports and old school hip hop references. Now, if he had referenced more Buffy the Vampire episodes…

I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the Asian American experience, as I am. (see: US/China relations and political growth, living in Seattle, the intrigue of a culture that hides its BBQ pork in a pillowy fold of dough). The more I read, the more I find themes of food and shame throughout Asian stories, and Huang is no different. What is different, however, is that this guy pulls no punches. This is a different Fresh Off the Boat than the ABC television show, which bears little resemblance.

And we’re better for the book. There’s no filter. Huang serves his life straight-up, giving us in-your-face family dirt, combined with a healthy serving of overconfidence, and hilarious insights and mishaps into being an Asian kid in America. Well, doesn’t Eddie Huang just sound wholesome?

Then you’re not paying attention, son! This is not your “model minority” Asian! This boy ain’t playin! FOB is also every parent’s nightmare, filled with gang activity, beatings, drugs, and serious insight into the rampant racism in America. And there is plenty for us white people to blush about. But instead of just blushing, why not read this and try to understand the race system that we often contribute to and benefit from?

FOB is well worth a read for anyone who ever looked at someone else and wondered, “Huh, I wonder what it was like growing up in a different culture in America?” Read it and WEEP. And cheer too, because Eddie had to make his own way, but he did it. The kid is damn smart, that’s obvious. He now runs a restaurant in NYC called “Baohouse” that sounds delicious (and punny), and it also serves to bring the community together, sometimes over food, sometimes over…other escapades. Eddie is still that punk kid, but with a greater understand of American culture as an outsider than many people I’ve met whose families go back to the Mayflower, or whatever. These days, we all should be taking a hard look at what it means to be “American,” and talk about it over and over. And over again.