I’ve managed to read a lot of books this year. However, Eddie Huang’s memoir had me stuck a lot of times. I didn’t want to finish it. I honestly was going to give up on it. However, I love the show and I wanted to see how this differed from the comedy on ABC. I was very surprised with how this all came about, especially when things got real in Huang’s life. “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir” by Eddie Huang is not like the show. The show is comedic, family oriented, and this turns into a rated R showcase of bravado, hubris, and for lack of a better word, “thug” life. I kid you not.
Woa! Sorry to stop your flow of reading. I wanted to interject and say that this is an older review. I know, old content isn’t always great. However, if you’re reading this, just know that this is a review that I wrote after reading the book in 2018. I’m working on 2019’s reviews, and will post them as I can, but this is from my archives. Sorry to break up the flow again, just continue reading, and please try the fish! I mean, buy the book.
I loved how “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir” by Eddie Huang wrote honestly about America. I loved it because I feel it every day. I’m a Mexican Immigrant, and I have assimilated in a lot of ways. The things that were told to Eddie growing up were told to me in many ways. People didn’t give me a chance, told me I was ugly, stupid, and much more. To this day, my real name gets me looks. In fact, when I went to get my driver’s license at the BMV this year in Indiana, the clerk asked my wife, “does he speak English”? Instead of asking me directly. Then turned to me and asked if I was even legal. Huang dealt with similar things, but instead of taking it like I do, he fought back. He literally punched people, knocked out others, and got arrested for various things.
I’m not a fighter, I guess. I deal with the Mexican side of racism in America, but often wondered how Asian people deal with it. Well, that’s what Huang explores in detail, and he juxtaposes it with his love for all things traditional food. He talks about food a lot, but this is not a book about food. It’s about cultural impacts, America, and family elements that are unique to his perspective.
What caught me off guard about this book, and admittedly didn’t make me want to finish it was the focus on being a thug. Eddie Huang admits, he made the wrong choices. However, there’s a glorification of those things. He sells drugs, he fights, he beats up people, steals money, and does a lot of things that you would expect from gang life. However, his family is rich. He justifies this rebellion at one point by telling a story about his father beat them when they gained a mansion. He said that it was his house, and his money, not theirs. There’s another story where Huang laments getting a BMW as a present, meanwhile I was riding the bus all of my life. You see, I want to relate to Huang’s story, but every time I reach a point where I may think it’s something worthwhile for me, he reveals a “ghetto” identity that comes from his love of hip hop.
What fascinates me is not so much that Huang’s story is unique. It’s not. What fascinates me is that most of the autobiographies that I have read this year have this element of gang violence. This chip on the shoulder of immigrant life. Whether rich or poor, there’s rebellion that leads to violence. I do not relate to that. I’m an immigrant, I grew up in poverty, and I didn’t do those things. Reading stories like “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir” by Eddie Huang makes me feel as though no one wants to hear or read my story. My story doesn’t have sex, drugs, and rebellion. It has a narrow path more often than not, and it’s quite boring. Is that why girls love the bad guy?
What I will relate to is the constant feelings of depression. Huang discusses feeling as though the world didn’t like him for what he looked like. He felt ugly, and the world treated him that way. He didn’t think he was so bad, but the world reminded him that he was fat, slow, and dumb. Even though he had accomplished so much, 3 degrees, law school, showed up on the Food Network, started a famous restaurant and more, he didn’t feel grand. Perhaps the biggest insult was when the Orlando newspaper wouldn’t hire him because his face. “That face?” “What’s wrong with my face?” “People aren’t going to want to talk to you that’s all.” I know the feeling. No one talks to me when they see my face. I’m ugly. Huang made it though, he had money. Give me money, and I’ll show you how many people talk to me.
I wanted to hate this book at times. But I get it. It’s Huang’s story. It’s a showcase of what you can do in America, when you live a life that’s thugged out, reckless, violent, and redeemed at the end. I hate that my story can’t or won’t be published because I didn’t punch someone with a lock, I didn’t sell drugs, and I didn’t do the wrong things. My story is bland. My immigrant story is reserved for an audience of none. Huang’s apparently is worth money. Heck, it must be nice. Ok, that all sounds like I’m jealous, and as a writer, I am. But as a reader, human being, and all around lonely person, I give this a 4 out of 5. I liked it. I hated it at first, but I realize that it’s a slice of Asian American life. Even though I don’t agree with some of the things, it’s a learning experience that has obviously allowed Huang to reach others. It’s a good book, despite my lackluster words. If you like the show, read this book, it’s a stark contrast, that’s for sure. Plus, the focus on food is great. I loved that at times, but it’s a bit disjointed. The beef noodle soup recipe was glorious, perhaps the best part of this book.
I’ll leave you with this, since Huang would appreciate it, “You’d love to hear the story how the thugs live in worry..” yep, congrats on the bestseller, people love it because of that line, Nas was right. I’m out.
You can purchase “Fresh Off the Boat: A Memoir” by Eddie Huang by clicking here, and getting it from Amazon.com