Eddie Huang’s “Fresh Off the Boat” Is an Identity Memoir for Millennials
My first generation, immigrant parents considered The Joy Luck Club to be required viewing–a cautionary tale of what happened when you, god forbid, brought a white boyfriend home for dinner. Amy Tan’s novel was a dramatic though delicate story about finding acceptance. In comparison, Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, spits its prose like a frenzied rap battle. From being called a “chink” in the school lunchroom to serving part of his felony probation in an overseas compatriot study tour to Taiwan, Huang fights to represent where he came from and celebrates his differences as a Chinese/Taiwanese-American rather than seeking acceptance from anyone.
Like you would expect from any celebrity chef, Eddie includes immersive and sensual food memories, spanning from the intimate knowledge of the flavors his mother put on the table to the skewed Jamaican barbecue of his father’s restaurant cooks to the night markets in Taiwan. A Chinese kid growing up in suburban Orlando is funny enough, but Eddie’s wry humor and lyrical hip-hop style voice reels you in, expecting an answer to the question of identity but instead offers an alternative view of what America looks like to the freshly American. Before you applaud ABC for portraying the first Asian-American family on a network sitcom, remember that Eddie Huang’s memoir has a lot more to say.