Happy Birthday or Whatever: Track Suits, Kim Chee, and Other Family Disasters

Annie Choi, Author
Annie Choi, Author . Harper Paperbacks $13.95 (242p) ISBN 978-0-06-113222-3
Reviewed on: 01/01/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
Open Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-133706-2
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 256 pages - 978-0-06-133709-3
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-133738-3
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-184767-7
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Choi's volatile relationship with her domineering, chronically dissatisfied mother is at the heart of this memoir, a funny and often moving account of growing up in a family of Korean immigrants. The parent/child compact in Choi's childhood home was as follows: Mommy and Daddy's job is to take care of the child; the child's job is to study hard, go to Harvard and become a doctor. But Choi and her mother face each other across a seemingly unbridgeable divide: Annie has little desire to embody traditional Korean feminine virtues (and no desire to be a doctor); her mother—to whom social status is everything—cannot countenance her daughter's "shortcomings." Whether recounting the shame of bringing home a B-plus on a fourth-grade spelling test (a clear indicator that she's destined for an inferior institution) or the greater horror of having to wear Korean clothes to American school ("The fun of soup bring Spring" reads one pair of her tracksuit bottoms), Choi adds acid wit—mixed with compassion—to her descriptions of immigrant life in the San Fernando Valley. This is that rare book that delivers more than it promises; Choi tackles the theme of mother/daughter conflict with grace and humor. (Apr.)

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