Book Review: 'Fresh Off the Boat' by Eddie Huang
Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 9:51am
There is one thing you will notice about Eddie Huang fairly early on in his new memoir: he hates you. There are only two things he loves: food and hip-hop -- both the music and the culture.
No, it doesn't matter who you are. His (somewhat jovial) disdain for his fellow man crosses racial, gender, and socio-economic borders. Eddie lets you know that he had a tough upbringing; trying to be both Chinese and American and in many ways, failing at both. Life isn't easy for a Chinese boy from Taiwan who grows up in Orlando mostly identifying with African American hip-hop culture.
Eddie is a fighter, both literally and figuratively. His dad teaches him early on to use his fists to solve problems. A failing marriage between his parents, and an abusive household make for a childhood filled with angst and confusion. Somehow Eddie was able to rise above all the craziness in his life and start his own successful restaurant in New York, Baohaus. He would be the first to tell you that his restaurant serves authentic Chinese/Taiwanese food.
I listened to this book, which is narrated by the author, an aspect I feel adds a special quality to the experience. Nobody else is going to be able to slip in and out of Eddie's street slang like Eddie himself. Also he likes to laugh during his somewhat uncomfortable scenes, therefore making the experience slightly less somber. Although I can't claim to be a fan of his personality, I enjoyed the book. He certainly had an interesting experience and although Eddie's is not one that is portrayed often in media, immigrants all over America have the same struggle to fit into the culture. Eddie grows with his story and although he may not be able to embrace all of America yet, at least he's got New York.
If you enjoy chef biographies that wax poetic about food, stories of second generation immigrants, and don't flinch while reading about tough situations, you might really like Fresh Off the Boat.