Meet Annie Choi. She fears cable cars and refuses to eat anything that casts a shadow. Her brother thinks chicken is a vegetable. Her father occasionally starts fires at work. Her mother collects Jesus trading cards and wears plaid like it's a job. No matter how hard Annie and her family try to understand one another, they often come up hilariously short.
But in the midst of a family crisis, Annie comes to realize that the only way to survive one another is to stick together . . . as difficult as that might be. Annie Choi's Happy Birthday or Whatever is a sidesplitting, eye-opening, and transcendent tale of coping with an infuriating, demanding, but ultimately loving Korean family.
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.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.