30 October 2013

All Together Now

Currently pushing: Strength in Numbers project. Chops of Mountain Brothers fame is trying to Kickstart the money for an album he made with a roster of current Asian American musicians. There's less than three days to go and they're short. So if you care about Asian American artists, then consider donating. Also, "21 Asian American Musicians You Need to Get Behind Right Now."

I’m cleaning up the rest of Eddie Huang’s memoir, Fresh Off the Boat. I went to go see Huang back in February but I’m only now getting around to reading my friend’s copy. Fresh Off the Boat, aside from being entertaining and hilarious, is important because it presents a point of view that is rarely seen. The experiences of our generation of immigrants that grew up in American but solidly had a foot still planted in Asia -- mainly due to how our parents raised us.

If you’re an immigrant, and especially an Asian-American one, you can relate to so much from this book, especially the stuff about dealing with the culture shock of whiteness. I forgot where the link went, but my friend forwarded me a piece where a twentysomething Asian-American shares her experience growing up and being placed in ESL classes even though her English was better than everyone else’s. The writer had a line in there, heavily paraphrased, about how growing up there’s a decision you make to assimilate to the white culture around you, or to resist. (Update here's the article: "The Asian-American Awakening: That Moment When You Realize You're Not White.")

When I was younger, I never felt that, but mainly because I was mostly oblivious. In retrospect however, every person of color has to make that decision at some point. In fact, that decision is always ongoing. That moment though, the “oh shit, I’m not like them” moment is true for everyone.

When the Huang family moves to Orlando, Eddie and his brothers enter a world where he’s continually picked on and made fun of for things like his otherness, the strange lunch food he brings to school (packed with loving care by his mom), and the usual shit that we Asian-Americans know about. Young Eddie eventually decides to stop taking shit and fight back, often literally. He decides he’s not going to assimilate and that’s that.
“Emery [Eddie’s younger brother] wouldn’t go talk to my parents about the things he really cared about or about how he really felt; he’d talk to me. When he talked to them, they just yelled at him. When he came to me, I’d always get stomachaches because I didn’t know what to do most of the time. I just told him what they’d taught me about ohw we should behave: respect your parents, respet your family, speak Chinese at home, take off your shoes at home, be polite at other people’s homes, don’t borrow money from people, but if other people need it from you lend it to them, as long as it’s inconsequential. Don’t fight, but if someone calls you a chink, fight.”
-Fresh Off the Boat-
The book isn’t all about race of course, there’s an equal amount in there about class and feeling inferior because he thought his family was poor. One of my favorite things about Fresh Off the Boat is how it really focuses on the (often crazy) family dynamics that come with moving to another country together. Also, there’s a ton of sports and rap references, which is a huge bonus. Plus some Encyclopedia Brown and Jonathan Swift for good measure too. Obviously, I’m recommending the book big time because even if it doesn’t speak to your experience, it speaks to one Asian-American’s experience that isn’t stereotyped. Regardless of you how you feel about Huang's antics, he represents an attitude and viewpoint that hasn't been shown before, much less in a book.

On a related note: Maurene Goo’s Since You Asked did the exact same thing for me as Fresh Off the Boat. It’s a young adult book with race, not about it. And if you read contemporary YA, that’s incredibly rare. s.e. smith’s review captures that aspect of the book exactly. Did I happen to see Eddie Huang walk by while I was having lunch in Fort Greene a few weekends ago? Yup I did. Did I quickly move to follow him down the street to the Brooklyn Flea? Of course I did. No shame in my stalking game. Did I say hello? Of course not.
The new NBA season officially started yesterday. I’ve been consumed the past week in drafting for my fantasy league. Seriously, I’m checking my phone every few minutes and researching players like all the time. I haven’t even been blogging anywhere because I’ve been cranking out articles for my sixteen team keeper league, SlamNation. This is probably the only writing related thing that I don’t dawdle at. Fake articles about each trade? On it. Full reviews of each team pre and post-draft? Did it already. If I could be this productive with other things, I would be a star.

I’m contemplating joining another league, one set up to mirror Bill Simmons’ suggestions for the ultimate basketball league. Even though I’m swamped by fantasy obligations already, I’m considering joining this thing. Key word there is “fantasy” because it's all fake obligations. "I gotta go do some work/writing, and by 'work' I mean fantasy articles. See ya!" Anyway, the fantasy team I’ve been slowly rebuilding has finally acquired enough parts to make it seem like a contender. I built a team around Rajon Rondo, which meant going big ball and acquiring power guys like Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, and Andre Drummond. Of course, now Rondo is out for a few months and my poor team will just spin its wheels.

Speaking of the Celtics, it was an off-season of transition for my team. If you don’t follow basketball at all, I’ll put it like this: The Celtics tore the house down this summer and are now rebuilding it brick by brick. Gone are stalwarts Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, in are a bunch of nobodies who won’t be around for very long. While I absolutely are dedicated to the Celtics, this is the season I happily (not-)watch them lose and instead focus my support toward the new old Celtics, aka Brooklyn Nets. I’m just a mile or so away from Barclays so I can pretend they are a semi-local team. While I couldn’t be sadder to see Pierce and Garnett go, I’m glad they have a chance to win a championship. Beat the Heat, beat the Heat!