Wednesday, September 12, 2007

happy birthday or whatever

Recently I went one night to the U.S Open, and there was one really great shot and then I found myself waiting. For the replay. You know, because all great things should be repeated for our pleasure. Oh, isn't this the goal of human existence. And then I felt pretty dumb.

Anyways, books are not like tennis! You can replay them right away! From the comfort of your bed! And while eating some chocolate! Go books!

So I came upon Annie Choi through a series of links — that internet gets me everytime. First, there was this open letter to architects, which I thought was funny, but not as much as it would be if I actually had architect friends, not architect enemies. But I enjoyed her devil-may-care spirit, a certain je ne sais quoi (or, je ne sais choi? hohohoho), and then started reading her blog, and THEN, I read her book, Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee and Other Family Disasters.

I found myself evincing that human emotion called laughter. Like, many times. And then when I was done, I went back and read it again. There might have been chocolate involved. The book addresses all the touchstones and honored traditions in the palette of korean-american life — food, church, grades, karaoke, golf, engrish, motherland, inescapable mother, anger, misunderstanding. Just throw all those things together and you get a freaking kimchi smoothie. Gross, right?

But A.C. writes with the kind of humor and snarkitude where poignancy and insight are subtle and natural, with a certain depth. Characters, especially her mom, are brought to vivid, hilarious life, and she manages to shed light on cultural context, from different points of view, through her stories, instead of as her stories - if that makes any sense to you. It probably doesn't. It was refreshing to read this after this book (which I am still sorting my feelings, thoughts, frustrations out on).

I recommend this to anybody who likes to laugh, who knows a Korean mother, or is human. 75% human is okay too.

Did you notice I couldn't, like, call her "Choi" ("Choi writes with blahlblahblah)? Just feels funny. And I have an annoying habit of typing "Choir" when it's not my name. I have such an ego. Annie Choi is no relation of mine (well maybe super distant like when rice was currency), though perhaps she is related to the Janet Choi from California whose friends are getting married and having birthday parties and baby showers and sending me evites and photos because they have the wrong e-mail address.

Here is a PDF of the first chapter thing. If this were an album, it would be called, "the title track."


James C said...

Hi, I like what you're doing here. You need a contact form, imo : P
Or I suppose the comment input works. Either way I like your writing.

janet said...

Thanks for coming by and for the nice words, James C. Comments work! My lazy blogging habits don't!